Encouraging reading in children
An important part of learning to read is the input of both parents. Several research studies have shown the importance of male influence on children’s reading. As far back as 2010 the National Literacy Trust published a study (Getting The Blokes On Board), highlighting that 40 per cent of male parents and carers believe their partner is more likely than they are to read with the children. At that time, up to 25 per cent of children were reported to have never seen their dad read.
If men could find the time to read with their children, it would have a huge impact on the lives of their children. According to the Fatherhood Institute, reading results in a closer father-child relationship and can lead to improved child behaviour and higher achievement.
Why don’t some fathers read with their children?
One of the reasons that fathers let mothers take the lead with reading may be that they were reluctant readers as children. “There are lots of reasons to hate reading as a boy,” says Tom Palmer, author of Foul Play, a football mystery story. “There are better things to do like playing out; playing computer games and watching TV. ‘Reading is for swots’ pretty much summed up my boyhood attitude.”
Finding the time to read with their children can be another obstacle. Long working hours and regularly missing bedtime can mean that there’s little time to read during the week, but it’s definitely worth trying to make the effort. One solution is to schedule reading time at the weekend, or before school.
What’s in it for fathers?
“Reading with my daughter has been incredibly worthwhile and we are closer as a result,” says Palmer. “Fathers are important role models. When fathers read to their child, it helps your child realise that reading isn’t boring or uncool, and that everyone does (and can) enjoy reading.” A father’s choice of books might also be a little different to a mother’s, which not only exposes children to different books or stories but helps develop shared interests.
One study has even indicated that families where fathers engage in reading activities with their young children are more likely to resolve family conflicts calmly and with compromise.
Top tips for reading success
- Make reading fun, not a learning process.
- Read in silly voices, and talk about the pictures as well as the words.
- Have a day out at the zoo, or the seaside, and then find books about it to read that evening.
- Go to author events at local bookshops, or the library together and make it part of an outing.
- Let your child see you reading – you’re the best enticement to read there is!