One phrase to keep in mind is “Follow in order to lead.” In other words, dads need to observe and listen to children in order to better lead them to enjoy reading. One way to follow children in
order to lead them is to involve them in choosing the books that you read to them. A good starting place is to consider what books the child has enjoyed in the past. Some children, such as Wan Inn’s
two oldest children Joanne and Julian, would read anything that they could lay their hands on, and any place was a good place to read - from the bedroom to the restroom - with books hidden
strategically in the restroom and bedroom closet for reading.
Other children may only be interested in books on a particular topic, in a particular series or by a particular author. Don’t worry if your children exhibit strong preferences and aversions. Dads should be happy that the children are reading even if they are stuck reading a particular type of book. After a while, they can influence them to try something new by reading aloud a different type of book. Jason, Wan Inn’s youngest, was only interested in books on insects and other animals. It was a challenge to try and influence him to read other types of books or read aloud to him other types of books. However, perseverance is the key and one may be pleasantly surprised to find the child curled up reading an unexpected book. With Jason, this happened in his early teens when he suddenly became interested in books awarded the Pulitzer or Booker awards!
Give books a pilot test at the library or bookstore by reading aloud a bit of it so that you and the children can judge your reaction to the book. This pilot testing prepares children for the day when they will be choosing books on their own for silent reading.
Letting children have a voice boosts their self-esteem and gives them a feeling of control. Additionally, children will be more eager to listen to books that they had a hand in choosing. If dads feel that children have not chosen wisely, they can gently inform them of why they believe a particular book is not the best choice.
If dads think a child will like a particular book, they should show enthusiasm for it and explain why you like the book and why you think the child will like it. Their enthusiasm for that particular
book and for reading in general can be infectious.
Books can be selected based on something that happened during the day or something that is coming up in the children’s lives. For instance, reading the book My Art & Craft Class before children go to
such a class for the first time prepares children for the new experience and may overcome their fears.
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.