Close your eyes and imagine a child cuddled in her parent’s lap, sharing a book. Who do you envision the parent to be—a mom or a dad? Because mothers have traditionally been the primary caregivers, many of us are likely to conjure up the image of a mother reading to her child.
As an uncle to 33 nieces and nephews, I know firsthand that fathers and other male figures play a critical role in reading in the home. It’s so important for dads to read to their children and for children to see both parents reading and enjoying books.
Why should dads read aloud?
- Reading together creates emotional and physical (tickling, hugging, cuddling) bonds with children. Fathers who read can create even closer relationships with their children than those who do not.
- Books keep dads involved, especially dads who are at work all day. Children often develop inside jokes and special voices by reading aloud with an adult. When dads read, they get involved in their children’s language development.
- Fathers often use different voices, tones, volumes, pitches, and special sounds for different characters in a book when they read aloud. Many dads know how to make reading fun and dramatic! It’s entertaining for children, brings the book to life, and increases their listening comprehension to hear a variety of voices.
- Dads are often interested in out-of-the-ordinary subjects. They’re likely to choose new books that will expose kids to a whole new range of topics and perspectives. Plus, reading can create common interests for the future (such as sports or cars) between a father and a child.
- Fathers who read become especially great role models for their sons. According to the Center on Education Policy, boys are more likely than girls to read below grade level. Dads who read demonstrate to a boy that reading is not just for girls, moms, and teachers which are likely to make him want to spend more time with books. Research shows that boys with dads who read aloud score higher in reading achievement than those who don’t.
- Reading aloud is inexpensive, doesn’t take much time, and helps create memories and connections that will last a lifetime!
Read Aloud Tips for Dads
Life is busy and it’s not always easy to find quiet time to read with your children. If children are used to having play time with dad, they may resist reading as an activity. We’ve come up with some great ways to help fathers make reading with their children an enjoyable experience for both.
1. Plan “Dad” field trips to the library or bookstore! Children will look forward to these special occasions!
2. Make it fun! Keep track of the books you’ve read together.
3. Establish a reading tradition. Choose certain “Daddy” books that become part of the bedtime ritual.
4. Be aware of your own screen time. If children see you constantly in front of a television or computer, or staring at your phone, they‘ll think it’s OK to do the same.
5. Find a special place in your house to read – such as a comfy armchair -- just for you and your child.
6. Make reading come alive. Act out scenes of books, or do activities (sports, crafts, cooking) together based on what you read. Dads love to play!
7. Take time to do some reading for pleasure yourself. If you’re in the habit of reading, it will become more natural for you to spend time reading to your children.
For general reading tips, doctor-recommended children’s books, and more information on the importance of reading aloud, click here.