This pandemic and the lockdown all around the world have given Dads a unique opportunity. Read to your children today. Spend time with them. Your time with them will not only be fun for them, but also help them make sense of this stressful situation.
Reading is an essential activity that is linked to children’s cognitive development, academic skills, and future employment opportunities. Children often become interested in reading by watching and mimicking their parents or participating in child-parent reading routines.
Although mothers have a big role to play, research shows that fathers are particularly influential for children’s language and literacy development, which means they are a promising point of intervention for efforts to improve children’s language and literacy.
Reading together and engaging in other literacy activities, such as telling stories, are things that fatherhood programs can promote to help fathers model positive parenting and improve children’s developmental outcomes. Fathers’ positive involvement with their children is not just good for children; fathers benefit too.
Fathers who engage more often in activities like play and book reading with their children, and fathers who are warm and nurturing with their children, report improvement in their own literacy skills and better outcomes than fathers who are less frequently or not positively involved.
This brief summarises what we know about how fathers positively contribute to their children’s language and literacy development, offers tips for how programs can encourage father-child reading, and provides a handout with tips for fathers.
What Does the Research Tell Us? Fathers’ positive involvement can be beneficial for children of all ages across many areas of development.
When fathers positively engage with their toddlers by reading to them or by being warm, nurturing, supportive, and cognitively stimulating during play, their children read better, have more advanced vocabularies and communication skills, and are more prepared to begin school than children with fathers who are less positively involved.
Children who read at young ages are likely to continue to read as they get older; older children who read more frequently than their peers tend to do better in school and have better employment opportunities in adulthood.
One reason father-child reading benefits young children’s language development is because it’s in-person and interactive. While older children can interact effectively with screens via skype or video, infants and toddlers do not learn language from screen-based interactions the way they do with in-person interactions. Fathers (and other adults) can hold young children’s attention through gaze and gestures (like pointing to a book’s pictures) better in-person, which facilitates learning.
Fathers often engage with their children through play. This is significant because children’s cognitive abilities – especially young children’s – develop through new experiences and exploration, which are key components of play.
Language and pre-literacy skills develop as children hear language; hearing more and varied words during play or other activities, like book reading, improves their vocabularies.
Research has shown that fathers and mothers are likely to engage in literacy activities more frequently with daughters than with sons.
When parents are interested in reading themselves, they are more likely to read to their children; therefore, encouraging fathers to improve their own literacy skills may also benefit children’s language and literacy development.
Our research found that fathers who participated in the 4- week reading program for fathers and children were more involved in their children’s education, felt like better parents, and reported a better relationship with their child than before they participated in the program.
Targeting fathers’ literacy skills may also improve their employability. Among adults, those with higher literacy are more likely to work, their job is more likely to be full-time than adults with low literacy, and they are likely to earn more.
What Can Dads Do? When you read and tell stories to your young children, it helps their language development and later academic skills. It can also lead to better employment opportunities in adulthood. Here are a few ideas to help you spend time reading with your son or daughter.
Read every day. It doesn’t matter what you read (books, magazines, comics, blogs), but make an effort to read, preferably something you enjoy, every single day. Your children will see you reading and they will become more interested in reading alone and with you. Hopefully you will enjoy it, too!
Read words aloud to your children. For example, when you’re out and about together, sound out the name of your street and point to the sign; when you’re eating breakfast, do the same with words on the cereal box. This can help children learn new words, connect words with how they’re written, and understand spelling concepts.
Reading with, talking with, and telling stories to your young children are great ways to bond with them. You can start talking to them during their first weeks of life. As you read to them, ask questions about the story (e.g., “Why did Jack do that?” “How many birds do you see in that picture?”).
Young children love hearing the same story over and over again. Even before they learn to read they’ll start learning the story and will be able to tell you what’s happening on each page.
If you’d rather tell stories than read, do that! Make it interactive by having your children help you develop a make-believe story, or recite back a story you have told them before, recite nursery rhymes or jingles, tell stories about when you were young, or check out books of photographs and talk about the pictures.
Use “Mad Libs” (activities where children make up a story by adding words in the blanks without knowing the story beforehand) with school aged children. The result is a funny, silly story that fathers and children can enjoy reading after the story is “written.”
Let children pick books that are interesting to them. Know that the quality of the time you spend with your children matters more than the quantity. You might not have as much time as you’d like with your children because of work, living arrangements, or other difficulties. Don’t stress about that – think about ways you can have fun and help them learn while you’re together through playing, reading, and storytelling.
Reading time, especially bedtime reading routines, provides important, non-physical bonding opportunities for you and your children. It gives your children a chance to reflect on their day and share stories and ideas with you.
Read with your school aged children even if you do not share a residence with them. You can read to your child over the phone, through FaceTime, or Skype. Or, get a copy of their favourite or school-assigned book and read along with them.
When you talk with your children, go with your instincts – introduce new words; ask them to explain what the words mean; and encourage them to enunciate a word more clearly. This type of interaction helps them learn how to communicate more effectively and makes you special in their eyes!
We would like to invite you to participate in our program 'Dads Read Aloud' by recording you reading stories to your kids and sending the videos to us for our channel - Spin A Yarn India - www.spinayarnindia.com or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Your Voice. Their Imagination.