Unlocking the Dad potential in literacy

Boosting the role of Dads in reading with children – By Ralph Berry

ralph berry masthead for columnI have never understood why the involvement of fathers in early reading is so patchy. What I do know is that fathers represent a huge untapped resource to help many children read and learn to love books. When my son was at Primary school, we were encouraged two mornings a week to come in for fifteen minutes of ‘paired reading’.  Simple stuff but being invited in and seeing other dads there was important. It was fun. He is on his way to being a Doctor now. You never forget those great books Colin McNaughton’s books still resonate for me. Roald Dahl’s gory stories too. We found something as a group of dads that became fun and that makes for dads who then get far more involved with books and children, share the reading and get the fun out of books .Let’s face it there are many distractions from Tablets, phones and big TV’s.

For this all to work, it helps if we all rediscover that quiet reading time.

It is vital for fathers, uncles and cousins to know that their attention and support is really important and crucial in boosting self-esteem and confidence especially for children who do not always live with their father.

It’s worth reminding mum also that this is a great way to co parent, to boost achievement and confidence, and to share in the achievement of your child.

Reading is so crucial to boosting our children’s achievement that we have a range of projects including some amazing ‘Paired Reading’ projects, where adults go in two hours a week to sit and read with a child once a week, and it really works.

Madrasahs and supplementary schools can also play a crucial role, again boosting confidence using key stage books and working with the schools and family can provide a boost, the key is lighting the imagination, seeing children lots in books is wonderful

Changes in family life have affected all communities, with divorce being more common now in Asian families so many fathers have care and contact arrangements that mean they do not always see their children as much as they might have 20 years ago. Work patterns have changed too, so finding that time is not as easy as 20 years ago. However, that makes it even more vital that we embrace the shared experience of a good read. There are initiatives working across Bradford like the new National Literacy Trust Hub. http://www.ourstories.org.uk/ and the Dolly Parton Inspired Canterbury Imagination Library in Bradford] http://www.canterburyimagine.co.uk/ so books will be in the home of under five in that area as free.  Charities like Reading Matters http://readingmatters.org.uk/  use voluntary reading mentors many of whom are men.

We are trying to target dad’s, to boost reading in families and communities. , children’s centres are working with male carers with the support from Bradford Bulls, Yorkshire Cricket and Bradford City. We are trying to target fathers to make a real difference.

Years of work in the family Courts and casework as a Councillor tells me that there has been passive exclusion of fathers from early education involvement, as well as men just not getting down on that mat and pulling out a funny book.

We blokes being ready to get down on that floor and read….

Research  shows us that dads really do matter even if we are there at weekends or have shared care of our kids, oh and do not forget the step dads, step granddads etc.  Research from the Fatherhood  Institute programme  ‘Fathers Reading Every Day’ [FRED] in  London showed improvements beyond expectations , 42% of children  made greater progress than expected compared to 115 of those who did not take part. That is very good evidence.

This brings us on to look at the role ‘we’ dad’s play in the development of our children, especially in disadvantaged communities.  Working with fathers is a vital if we are to transform the prospects for many girls and boys. Active fathers really matter, they really do, kids get  higher IQ’s, better cognitive competence, problem solving skills , fewer behavioural problems in schools , better attachment to the father , better able to cope with stress, and a lot more .

The dad factor is key in opening up horizons. For our children. However, we know many men have not had a great start themselves, patterns need  change, which is why getting in early is so important.  So come on dad’s let us get into those books, happier children who do better at school, but we also rediscover those books that fired our childhood imaginations. The PC can wait…

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