Reading matter will encourage fathers

Man in bedroom with two young girls reading book a
Man in bedroom with two young girls reading book a
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More dads need to read with their children, says the Fatherhood Institute, which is running Fathers’ Story Week in a bid to get more men into the reading habit

Great dads do a lot more than just provide for their children - and some of the extra effort needed to be great can be as simple as reading a book.

Just one in eight dads takes the lead with reading to their children, despite studies showing a father’s involvement in a child’s early reading boosts academic success and leads to improved social and emotional wellbeing.

The huge benefits of dads reading with their children is what’s behind Fathers’ Story Week (June 10-16). Leading up to Father’s Day (June 16), the week aims to get schools, nurseries and libraries to organise events which will get more dads reading with their kids, using specially-created lesson plans and activity ideas.

Jeremy Davies, of the Fatherhood Institute which organises Fathers’ Story Week, says the aim of the week isn’t just academic, it’s also to celebrate fathers and their importance.

“Focus is on reading and fathers supporting their children’s learning,” he says, “but more broadly than that, it’s about spending time with children and showing an interest in what they’re doing.”

As well as encouraging school, nursery and library events, Fathers’ Story Week is also inviting everyone involved in the week to sign up for a four-week supported reading programme Fathers Reading Every Day (FRED).

The programme, which began in the US, sets targets for dads with their kids - 15 minutes a day for the first two weeks, and then 30 minutes a day for the next two weeks. Dads and kids record their reading in a log book.

FRED in the US has been shown to improve children’s reading accuracy, comprehension, reading rate, writing and behaviour.

It can also improve attainment in maths.

“In America FRED has had a really positive impact on the amount fathers read with their children,” says Davies, “because it gives reading some structure and children will remind their dads if they haven’t done their reading that day.”

Research by the Booktrust, a reading and writing charity, earlier this year found that a quarter of fathers blame working late for not reading with their children, but Davies points out: “FRED gets reading with children into fathers’ heads. It’s about getting into the habit. Give reading with your children as often as you can the priority it deserves.”

He points out that the programme will work just as well for busy mums too, adding: “That time cuddled up reading with somebody who loves you is such a beneficial thing, partly intellectually but also emotionally because it gives children a strong sense of security.

Jim Sells, programme manager at the National Literacy Trust, which endorses Fathers’ Story Week, points out there are lots of easy ways to get dads reading with their kids, such as just reading one book chapter per day, or spending 10 minutes reading a comic or magazine with the kids each night.

“It all makes a difference, and dads will have a great time doing it,” he says.

“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.”

Sells advises dads: “Put your feet up and read yourself - this will encourage your children to see reading as an enjoyable activity.

“We dads can make a huge difference to our children’s literacy development.”