Dads urged to read with their children
As new research shows one in three dads do not encourage their kids to read, the National Literacy Trust tells Lisa Salmon why it is so important that more fathers enjoy books with their children ...
Reading with children can be a positive experience for parents and kids – yet it seems to be a job that many dads delegate to mums.
New research from the National Literacy Trust has found that far fewer dads than mums encourage their children to read (66.3 per cent compared with 82.6 per cent), and one in three fathers gives no reading encouragement to his children at all.
What's more, results from the charity's annual survey showed that while children who see their parents reading think more positively about reading than those who do not, a third of dads (32.9 per cent) are never seen with a book in their hand, compared with one in seven mums (14.9 per cent).
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This is a worsening trend, as two years ago only one in four dads (24.9 per cent) was never seen reading by his children.
The Trust's campaign for parents, Words For Life, is calling for more dads to get involved with their children's reading, as the research also found that children who are encouraged to read by their parents achieve higher reading levels at school.
Jonathan Douglas, director of the National Literacy Trust, said: "It's old-fashioned to think that encouraging reading is just down to mothers.
"Children learn behaviours from both parents, and boys, in particular, benefit from male role models."
He points out that the role of fathers in encouraging communication and literacy development in their babies and young children is set to become even more important under the new system of flexible parental leave being introduced in 2015. New mothers will be able to return to work two weeks after childbirth and share the rest of their maternity leave with their partner.
"With the forthcoming changes to parental leave, a father's role in their child's communication and literacy development is set to become of even greater importance," stressed Douglas.
Clare Bolton, Words For Life's campaign manager, acknowledges that many dads have such busy working lives that it can seem daunting to fit yet another thing in.
But she points out that if dads try to set aside a regular time to read with their children, or to listen to them read, it can help fit book time into the daily routine.
"Fathers can seize opportunities to read when they are out and about, too," she says. "By asking their child to tick items off a shopping list at the supermarket, or to read road names as they pass by."
And it is not just reading with children, it is making sure the kids see their dad reading, too, she stresses.
"Male role models are especially important for boys to develop good reading habits, and dads can play their part by letting their sons – and daughters – see them reading.
"It doesn't have to be a novel, it can be the newspaper or a magazine, but in copying their father's reading behaviour, children will gain confidence and enjoy reading too."
Dads can find ideas for simple activities they can do with their children to help them develop better literacy skills at www.wordsforlife.org.uk