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Dads as Reading Role Models

Written by: Julie Provencher

June 17, 2015

When you listen to children at play, you may often hear “My dad’s the strongest!” or “I’ll tell my dad and you’ll be sorry!” Fathers have great influence when it comes to their children’s upbringing. Just think about their role when it comes to teaching their children about sports, rules and social interaction. In several areas, fathers teach their little ones to take some risks, to show initiative. Through their comments and encouragements, fathers contribute to the development of their children’s independence. There’s no doubt that a father’s influence is felt in all spheres of family life... even when it comes to literacy development!

By observing my husband, I discovered his influence on my children regarding literacy. I realized that my husband gives off "reading vibes" in our household; vibes that strengthen the emotional bond between our children and books. Through his attitude and behavior, he inspires and encourages our children to read... and he does it so naturally! The following are some of the actions that have encouraged our kids to read.

Playing with books

Researchers agree that “it is the act of reading to our children during their early years that has the greatest influence.” When our children were babies, my husband used to rock them at night; he’d take this moment to take a plastic, board or cloth book and read to them. He would play peek-a-boo, hiding his face behind the book. I still remember the laughter of my children who, surprised, would see daddy pop back out, a book always in his hands! Some evenings, books were replaced by dad’s imaginative and marvellous stories. A moment which often ended with the plea: “Again daddy, again!”

Teach by example

By sitting at the table reading the weekly flyers, the newspaper, a magazine or a great novel, a father imparts that reading is important and appreciated. Some actions speak much louder than words.

Talk about current events

Most men tend to like knowing about what’s going on in the word. They read the newspaper and web articles to stay informed and sometimes discuss current events with their children. They may not realize it, but they are teaching their children that a responsible citizen stays informed about current events. My children are now in grade school and we discuss some news stories. Slowly but surely, their father is educating them on the ways of the world. He encourages them to stay informed, to read about what’s happening in the world and to consider different points of view offered by the media.

Mix it up!

Everyone has their own tastes and preferences! Dads can make a trip to their local library or bookstore with their little ones and chose different types of books to stimulate an interest for various subjects. This is the perfect opportunity to expose your child to reading diversity.

Take an interest

A father who asks: “What are you reading these days?” sends the message that reading is interesting! I still remember a spring break when my son chose a few books from the library and had left them on the coffee table. My husband sat on the couch, picked up some of the books and said: “When you finish that book, I’d like to read it too.” If you could have seen the look on my son’s face, his eyes lit up! His father was interested in reading HIS book. All week our son talked about his book to tell his father how he was going to love this or that part. This small comment carried great weight and conveyed an important message: I am interested in you and your choice of reading material.

My conclusion

A dad gives off a lot of vibes in a household, though small daily actions he can strengthen his children’s emotional relationship to books and reading. I’d like to conclude by telling you a story about a young boy named Jonathan, who is now grown up. Jonathan lived with his mom but didn’t see much of his dad, not since he was a baby. His uncle was the one to step in as a male role model, and on every occasion, he would offer Jonathan books. They would also have discussions about these to nurture Jonathan’s curiosity and thirst for knowledge. Years later during a conference, Jonathan confessed to me that this uncle had given him the greatest gift of all: the love of reading. How about you? Are you this person to a child?

Here are few useful links to learn more about the benefits of father reading time:

http://www.daddyread.com/
http://www.education.com/reference/article/Ref_Hidden_Benefits/
http://www.readingrockets.org/article/role-fathers-their-childs-literacy-development-pre-k
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/03/dadsread-campaign_n_5433927.html
http://www.cbc.ca/books/2015/06/fathers-need-to-read-more-to-their-kids-poll.html

Julie Provencher, Mother, Teacher and Lecturer