I have just finished a degree at the University of Glasgow in History and Politics. I am an aspiring journalist, having just finished my time as editor-in-chief of a student magazine. I also recently completed an internship for a company that develops literacy programmes for nurseries.
If you haven’t already guessed my passion in life is reading and writing. I still regard this passion of mine as being down to my dad. One day he arrived home from a business trip with a book entitled ‘When I Was Little’, and at bedtime he read it to me. He did this every night for a few weeks, but with subtle changes. He got me to read it with him, we spelt the words and even acted out the story in my room. It wasn’t long before I was able to read it myself but I was having so much fun I decided to pretend I still couldn’t read, so that our bedtime story sessions would continue. He clocked me pretty quickly (subtlety isn’t a particularly common trait in three-year-olds) and our formal reading lessons were over.
However, when one door closes another opens so we began to read as a family, with my sisters and I viewing every new story as an adventure, making obstacle courses in our hallway, pretending to be princesses, witches and explorers with our beds invariably acting as castles, caves or temples. Every new book given to us brought new settings, characters and words to devour.
In my time researching for my recent internship, however, I have discovered the heart-breaking fact that, as time goes on, it seems fathers are less and less interested in reading to their children. Book Trust’s national survey last year showed that only 19 percent of 19 to 24-year-olds enjoyed reading to their children compared to 78 percent of over-55s. It seems that the notion of dads reading to their kids is fast falling out of fashion. Despite the overall increase in men taking part in child-related activities, mothers are still more likely to engage in reading and writing with their children.
In recent years it has also become increasingly apparent that early years education is vital for a child’s skills in the future, and, as well as nurseries and childcare centres, both parents are an integral part of that. Furthermore, studies have shown that children can benefit specifically from a male role model when it comes to reading and writing. Boys, in particular, are more likely to be interested in reading if their dads are. With the gender gap still persisting in literacy skills, and an increasing lack of interest in reading and writing generally, it is becoming more important for fathers to make the effort to read to their kids.
It should not, however, just be seen as a chore or something you must do in order to ensure your child is better at school or more employable in the future. It should be seen as the chance to open doors into untold realms containing heroes and villains, great battles and beautiful balls. It should be the chance to watch what happens when you light the fire of a child’s imagination. It should be the chance to get to know your son or daughter.
So next bedtime, enlist the help of Julia Donaldson, Dr. Seuss, Roald Dahl or any other of the many brilliant children’s authors, to go on a journey with your child to unknown kingdoms. They are adventures they will remember forever- trust me on that one.
-Image courtesy of H is for Home (https://www.flickr.com/photos/h_is_for_home/)