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Dads urged to read more to their children

Fathers are being encouraged to spend more time reading to their children after a new survey found that mothers think they have more influence on their child’s literacy skills


Dads are being urged to read to their children more after new research found that half as many fathers as mothers say they have the most influence over developing their pre-schooler’s literacy skills.

The annual survey, by the National Literacy Trust, shows that while more than a third of dads (36.6%) of children aged between three and five feel they have the most influence over their young child’s literacy development, significantly more mums (71.5%) said the same.

The poll of 1,000 parents, carried out by YouGov, indicates that the ‘gender gap’ in reading starts early, with parents reporting that 70.6% of their pre-school daughters read stories daily, compared to 61.1% of their sons.

Parents were also more likely to report that there are ‘no barriers to your child developing their early literacy skills’ if they had a girl (50.1%) than if they had a boy (43.1%).

The Trust say this creates an opportunity for fathers to be reading role models, as according to research their influence has great benefits for all children, in particular boys.

Children’s author, comedian and dad David Walliams said: “Sharing a book at bedtime with your child is not only one of life’s greatest pleasures, it also really helps them learn to read.

“I want to encourage parents to make time to read a book with their child whenever they possibly can.”

The survey also revealed almost a quarter (24.0%) feel that it is other adults who work with their child, for example teachers, who have the most influence on their child’s literacy development.

The research shows that parental attitudes and behaviours towards reading were related to those of their children, with 37% of parents who are very confident about looking at or reading stories at home saying their child was very confident about doing the same.

Only 5.4% of parents who say they are fairly confident reported that their children are very confident about looking at or reading stories at home.

National Literacy Trust Director Jonathan Douglas said: “While it is promising that over one third of fathers feel they have most influence over their child’s early literacy development, there is a clear opportunity for more dads to share stories with their children from an early age.

“Dads and mums are both key reading role models for their children and by supporting each other they will help boys in particular to develop the literacy skills that will transform their future.”

The Fatherhood Institute, which runs a programme called Fathers Reading Every Day, stressed that local authorities, schools, early years and other family services – as well as parents themselves – often under-estimate the significance of fathers’ involvement in children’s education.

‘We know that fathers and father-figures are hugely influential on child outcomes, but services remain resolutely mother-focused and little is done to actively reach out to and engage with dads, or to support mums to share the responsibility for supporting the children’s education”, said Fatherhood Institute joint chief executive Adrienne Burgess.

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