"The young girl sits in a common rush chair placed on a rough tile floor, which suggests her working-class origins. The back of the chair acts as a prop for both her book and the dress which drapes over the chair's back. Her seated position, turned sideways, creates a gentle shift in the axis of her body, reinforcing the feeling of absorption in her reading and discreetly calling attention to the fact that she wears only a nightgown, which has slipped from one shoulder to reveal her breast. A single tear streaks the young girl's left cheek near her eye. Suspended around her neck on a simple knotted cord is a portrait medallion of the Italian patriot Giuseppe Garibaldi.
"The content of the book has obviously moved her. Its words (based on a text legible in the first exhibited version of the sculpture) are lines by the Italian poet and playwright Giovanni Battista Niccolini (1782-1861), whose writings celebrated themes of Lombard freedom and deliverance from Austrian oppression during the uprisings of 1848. This young reader responds, therefore, to sentiments that will soon find their fullest expression in the Italian Risorgimento. The Reading Girl may very well represent Italy itself, soon to come into maturity as a nation. In this regard, The Reading Girl fuses verismo concepts of truth to nature and close observation with emotional insight, all in service to a rising Italian patriotic sentiment."