Reading is important for dads to do for many reasons: for enjoyment, for knowledge, for participation in society, for helping the next generation and for economic well-being. For instance, researchers in the U.S. found that people who read better and more often normally have higher income levels. The two need to go together: the ability to read and a love for reading.
How can dads help children learn to read and to love doing it? Reading experts around the world recommend that dads (and moms) read aloud to children. In this chapter, we talk about the many reasons for this recommendation.
Social and emotional reasons for dads to read aloud to their children
When, as dads, we take time to read aloud to our children, we are telling them that we think they are worthwhile. Whether the children we are reading to are on our lap or sitting next to us, our bond with them grows stronger, as we share the excitement, sorrow, happiness, wonder and other emotions generated by reading.
The book itself that the dad is reading is just the beginning of the sharing. With the book as a springboard, he can dive into related topics close to the children’s lives. For example, while reading the book My Violin Class with children who play an instrument or go to class to develop any talent, dads can talk about what the children like and do not like about that learning experience.
Reading aloud helps children mature. For instance, books stretch children’s attention span. Children want to know what will happen next in the book or what else they will learn – what will the next page bring - so they keep listening instead of jumping from one activity to another. As children pay attention to the book and our conversations about it, their attention span increases.
Books also build children’s maturity as they learn about the feelings of others, whether the others are humans or fellow animals. In the discussions that dads can have with their children as they are read to, they talk about these feelings. For example, in Kayla & the Magical Tree, the main character, Kayla, has to deal with bullies. This might be an opportunity for the dad to open a discussion of bullying and how bullies, the bullied, and bystanders feel.
Reading aloud is (or should be) a common feature of preschool and lower elementary school education. Thus, children who are read to outside school have an advantage when they go to school because they are already familiar with reading aloud. So come on, dads, don’t wait a second longer to start reading to your kids!
Dad reminder: You can start to read to your kids at ANY age. It's fun for the kids and dad. It really is a dad duty!
- George Jacobs, Ph.D. and Wan Loh Inn, Ed.D.
Dr. George Jacobs, Ph.D. and Dr. Wan Loh Inn, Ed.D. are the authors of many books (including "The Read Aloud Guide", textbooks for teachers and students, curriculum guides, and children's storybooks).
Find out more about reading aloud to your kids.