Wednesday, October 23, 2019 | ePaper

Fathers' Role In Reading

It Matters to Develop Reading Habit

  • Print
Paula J. Schwanenflugel :
In honor of Father's Day, we're posting today about the many ways that fathers can contribute to their children's reading development.  While we have all heard how important it is for parents to read to young children, too often we assume that those "parents" are mostly mothers.  And indeed, research shows that mothers do read to their children more often than fathers.  But research also tells us that fathers have at least three vital roles to play in their children's literacy development:
When fathers read to young children, they tend to interact differently than mothers do.  Studies by Duursma and others have found that, while mothers tend to focus more narrowly on the content of the book they are reading, fathers' reading time conversations with children are more wide-ranging and often bring in topics from outside contexts.  Similarly, mothers tend to ask children convergent questions about the facts or events in the book they are reading, but fathers pose more abstract questions and questions that challenge children to use their imaginations or connect what they are reading to outside experiences.  As a result, while time read to by mothers was correlated with traditional emergent reading behaviors by children, it was time read to by fathers that predicted better language development, which is the foundation of reading comprehension.  Interestingly, girls' language development benefited even more than boys' from having their fathers read to them regularly.
Fathers serve as important reading models, especially for boys.  When the only people they ever see reading are their mothers and their (usually) female elementary school teachers, boys often begin to see reading as an essentially feminine activity, something "guys" don't do.   Watching their fathers read can prevent the development of this detrimental belief; in fact, research done recently in Italy found that children tend to imitate their parents' reading activities even more closely than we would have guessed.  Fathers can also be helpful in broadening children's conceptions of reading.  While men are less likely than women to be traditional fiction book readers, fathers can help show children that reading newspapers, reading instructions, reading for information, and even reading sports reports are all legitimate, useful and rewarding types of reading.
As children get older, a father's influence on reading can still be strong.  Fathers who recommend and discuss books with their teenagers have a positive impact on whether and what they read.  In fact, studies show that adolescents who read are often motivated to read books their parents are reading or had read in their youth.  Fathers can also make sure books and other reading materials remain readily available to their children by going with them to the library and buying books or subscriptions for gifts-or by giving them a gift card to the local bookstore, and then taking them on a Saturday morning expedition, so they can pick out just what they'd like!  Real readers love to talk about what they are reading, and fathers can be great listeners and contributors to these conversations; we know that teen-age boys who like to read especially value increased sharing and discussion of multiple sorts of reading materials, including informational and Internet-based reading, with their fathers as they get older.
Such reading-centered interactions can benefit fathers just as much as their children.  
Fathers say that reading to their children at bedtime helps them feel emotionally and physically closer to their kids, especially if they have to be away all day at work.  When their sons are older, some fathers report that typically "masculine" reading activities, like looking up sports statistics, offer important opportunities to share time and interests with their sons.  Even fathers who initially lack skill or confidence in reading have been shown to gain both through reading with their children.
So this Father's Day, encourage the fathers you know to spend some time reading to or with their children.  If you are a father yourself, know that interacting together around reading-whether it is a repair manual, an online site about some shared interest, or a favorite book from your own childhood-is a win/win situation for you and your kids.
For fathers (or others ) who want to know more:
· The U.S Department of Health and Human Services has put out a great research brief on the benefits of fathers' reading to their children, with a lot of embedded resources that focus mainly on reading and doing other literacy activities with younger children.
· Jon Scieszka's Guys Read site has lots of information specifically on boys and reading and suggestions for things fathers might enjoy reading with somewhat older sons.
· For those who want to dig deeper, Christina Clark wrote a report for the National Literacy Trust summarizing the research up to 2003 that supports all these benefits, which is available free through ERIC.

(Paula J. Schwanenflugel, Ph.D., and Nancy Flanagan Knapp, Ph.D., are co-authors of The Psychology of Reading). 

More News For this Category

Danger of relying on intuition

Robert Smither :Earlier this year Business Week profiled Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, a company with annual revenues of $13 billion.  Benioff, who describes himself as being "quite spiritual,"

Abnormal Uterine Bleeding

Abnormal Uterine Bleeding

Prof Dr Hamida Begum :A toddler by the age of 10-14 years when gradually becomes an adolescent (teen age) -then various changes occur in her body (physical) and mind

It's Not Easy Being Green

It's Not Easy Being Green

Allison Kelly :We are bombarded with so many terrible things facing our world that if you're anything like me, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. The planet is warming at

Mass Shootings, Guns and Suicide

Mass Shootings, Guns and Suicide

Brendan Kelly :Last August, at least 31 people died in the US following mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas. In response, President Donald Trump announced that

The Positives of Dyslexia

The Positives of Dyslexia

Robert Chapman :Dyslexia is typically framed through a medical-deficit model. Take the following definition: "Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by

Skills for future success in business

Marcia Reynolds :Technology has changed how we communicate and will continue modifying what we call effective communication. Many of our connections will be virtual; the use of video platforms

Age-Gap Romance: Recipe for Stigma or Success?

Age-Gap Romance: Recipe for Stigma or Success?

Wendy L. Patrick :We have all seen them, or met them: couples that are obviously from two different generations. When we are introduced, the visual mismatch may leave us

Curing Cancer, Curing CancerPhobia

Curing Cancer, Curing CancerPhobia

David Ropeik :September is cancer awareness month for advocates promoting concern about leukemia and lymphoma, childhood, gynecological, ovarian, prostate and thyroid cancers. Those honourable advocates are driving home the

Working for a cause

Working for a cause

Katharine Brooks :From all the headlines these days, it seems like everyone has a cause-a significant area of passion, interest, or concern. And whether your concerns center on children,

Shield the heart before it attacks you

Shield the heart before it attacks you

Prof. Dr. Gobinda Chnadra Das :This year, the World Heart Day ihas been observed on Sept 29 in Bangladesh along with other parts of the world. The World Heart