This week, in the run up to Father’s Day, it’s Fathers’ Story Week, which aims to promote and support dads’ reading with and to their children.
For those of us parents who take our jobs seriously, we know that the greatest gift we can give our children is time – and reading with and to them is one of the greatest ways to share those previous moments together. What’s more, if you choose the right book, reading is way more interesting than pretending to get a kick out of Moshi Monsters online.
But in these days of relentless distractions and demands on our time, it’s all too easy to say – as my Dad used to say to me: ‘Reading? Isn’t that what they pay teachers to do?’
Yes – and no! It’s both our jobs – yet it shouldn’t be a chore, either for you or your kids.
Unfortunately, the reading role is all-too-often left to mums. Is it because dads aren’t that way inclined? Is it becausee they’re too busy working and commuting? Is it because a pint in the pub on the way home is seen as more rewarding than ploughing through Angelina Ballerina or Biff and Chip?
Well, before I became a reluctant housedad when my wife and I swapped roles after I was made redundant, I was that kind of father. I hardly saw my kids because I left for work before they got up and arrived home after they’d gone to bed. Even at weekends, when I was around, I felt I needed my own head space rather than spend just a few minutes immersed in a magic kingdom to ignite my three children’s imaginations.
But all that has changed. I learned to read when I was four years old. I devoured books. But as I’ve spent more and more time with my own children, I see that books just don’t capture their attention in the same way they did mine – hardly surprising, as a black and white telly didn’t quite compete with books in the same way that the Disney Channel, Wii, CBeebies or Club Penguin does nowadays.
So what’s a dad to do? Well, I persisted. I insisted. I countered my kids’ resistance. It began with a routine ‘Right, it’s 7 o’clock, time to get the books out’, then gradually the initiative shifted from me, to them. Now my three children – aged 10, seven and four – voluntarily get their books out and get down to it.
Partly this is because they can’t stand to hear my nagging voice, but they also realise that once they get stuck in, a new world opens up to them, and they get lost in their characters’ adventures.
But that;’s just my experience. What do the experts have to say? I asked the Fatherhood Institute, the organiser of Fathers’ Story Week, for their Top 10 Tips for Getting Kids Excited About Reading…
1. Let them regularly see you reading yourself (reading books, newspapers and other reading material)
2. Sit down beside them and read while they read quietly
3. Play games that involve reading – Monopoly, computer games, collecting football cards with names on them
4. Let them text on your phone and encourage them to write letters and/or send e mail messages to other family members
5. Find a café or pub that has a Scrabble set, and make it a treat to go there to play and share a piece of cake
6. Set them ‘helpful’ tasks that involve reading, eg ask them to look for a fact in an article you read earlier in the newspaper
7. Use the local library so it doesn’t feel like a costly failure if you buy a book and they don’t read it
8. Set deadlines – ‘let’s read quietly together for 20 minutes’ rather than ‘go and read’
9. Try different types of books – reference books like Guinness World of Records as well as novels
10. Have a stash of ‘fun’ books (with pictures/cartoons as well as words) around the place, eg near the sofa, in the bathroom.
But Fathers’ Story Week isn’t just about tips and advice, it’s mainly about getting involved, becoming engaged and taking a pro-active interest in reading with your children.
There’s a website dedicated to the week, so go on over and check out what’s happening. In the meantime, here’s some more info about FSW from their website:
‘Supportive home environments are key to children’s success at school – and a wealth of research shows that children with positively involved fathers and father-figures (whether or not they live with them full-time) do better in all sorts of ways.
‘Many fathers want to be more involved in their children’s education, but it’s not always easy to engage with them. Fathers’ Story Week is designed to help your school or other setting use fatherhood as a hook for learning activities, and for reaching out to dads and getting them to take part in school life.
What happens in FSW?
You can create whatever activities work for you. Here are some simple ideas you could try:
• Invite dads in to read to the children
• Run a dads’-and-kids’ sports day
• Hold a Father’s Day assembly and invite all the dads
• Ask dads to read a favourite story to their child, and get the child to write about it
• Get the children to draw their dad and write a story for him
You can also register for the FSW resource pack. For just £20, the pack contains everything you need to make Fathers’ Story Week go with a bang, with exciting classroom activities matched to Key Stage 1 and 2 National Curriculum and Early Years Foundation Stage learning and development targets – and whole-school events to help you engage with dads.
• For avoidance of doubt, this is NOT a sponsored post.