Bedtime stories are better for youngsters if they are read by men
According to researchers at Harvard University in the US fathers should make a special effort to pick up a book with their child before sending them to bed.
The study looked at the effect on infants’ language after a year of hearing stories read by their mums and dads.
It found that girls seemed to benefit particularly from being read to by a male.
Researcher Elisabeth Duursma said: “The impact is huge, particularly if dads start reading to kids under the age of two.
“Reading is seen as a female activity and kids seem to be more tuned in when their dad reads to them, it’s special.”
The experts said that men and women approach the task of night-time reading with their children differently and that youngsters tend to be challenged more by men.
They claim that mothers tend to ask ‘teacher-like’, factual questions, such as ‘How many apples do you see?’ whereas fathers choose more abstract ones which spark imaginative discussions.
Dr Duursma added: “Dads were more likely to say something like: “Oh, look, a ladder. Do you remember when I had that ladder on my truck?”
A separate study involving 2,000 parents and children has shown that the ideal story should last just 8.6 minutes long.
The families who participated also said that the characters in the book should include a dragon, a wizard and a fairy and should ideally revolve around a mythical castle.
Research from the National Literacy Trust published in May revealed growing numbers of youngsters are catching the reading bug.
In its annual survey, it found more than half of the 32,000 eight to 18-year-olds questioned said they enjoy reading quite a lot or very much.
That is the highest it has been since the survey began in 2010.