10 September 2015
So we all know Dad’s are great, in fact, they are awesome. Okay, well I am biased to think that, however, there is proof. Did you realise that Dad’s have more of a role outside of the stereotypical mowing of lawns and dealing with creepy crawlies, we also have an important role in our children’s literacy too? So we have been celebrating our Dad’s this month and it brings much-needed attention to how important they are to a developing child.
And rather than going on about all the different ways Dads make a difference, I thought I would point out just one. Studies show that a Dad that reads to his children will greatly improve not only the literacy outcomes for that child, but it also leads the child to achieve in other areas also, such as improved social and emotional well-being. Now, while most Dads would agree that reading is an important shared activity to do with their kids, the majority don’t read with their kids.
Now, Dads, I get it. As a busy Dad with lots of competing commitments, I get that there are moments when you are at home at the end of a day with zero energy to give, that reading a story is pretty close to the last thing you want to be doing. So this is not about adding any ‘you should do’ pressure to your existing demands. What this aims to do is firstly let you know that the conversations you have with your children matter, and have real value. Secondly, the aim is to give you some ideas on how to make reading a practice that fits in with your family’s lifestyle and so does not create an extra load on you, so that both you and your kids will enjoy reading.
Below are my thoughts and tips on reading for busy Dads or Dads who just don’t enjoy reading. Remember, even if you’re not a reader yourself, your participation in literacy activities at home can have a profound impact on your child’s academic achievement. You just have to send the message that reading is important! Do that, and your children will follow you and value reading.
Firstly, here is how to make children lose interest in reading:
- Tell them what to read
- Tell them what to not read
- Make them finish reading something because they started it
- Tell them how to read (quietly/aloud/beginning,speed)
- Constantly correcting their reading (remember it is not about performance, it is about enjoyment)
- Pressure to read or reading to timelines (finish by this time or you’re going to school/grade next year)
- Reading for reward (Bribes work in getting the reading done, they don’t work to instil enjoyment of reading)
- Make reading into something that pleases you (kids need to read for themselves not to please others)
- Comparing reading ability to others (particularly siblings)
- Not modelling reading yourself
Here are my ideas for Dads to have your children enjoy reading:
- Reading is not about bedtime!
- Tell stories about when you were young
- Recite nursery rhymes or jingles
- Read print from your surroundings (road signs or brand names on food containers)
- Ask your child about his day (Conversation with adults helps children learn new words and practice creating a narrative — both linked to better reading skills.)
- Turn word finding into games or challenges
- Let Dad choose the books, mums have a tendency to pick books they think their kids will like. (We don’t want Dad yawning while reading)
- Let them see you reading for pleasure in your own time
- Gift them a book at gift giving times
- Make the point of being bored by TV, Turn off the TV and go get something to read.
And finally here is where I think a lot of us were steered wrong in our childhood. We were told we had to read something, we were told that we had to finish reading something, that if you started it, you had to finish it. We were told that you had to read from the first page to the last page in that sequence. The only time I have seen otherwise was with the choose your own adventure/pick a path style books, but even they were read in a sequence.
Here’s the rub; reading is to be enjoyed, it is a stimulation, and if it isn’t, then STOP! Yep, you heard me, stop. If it bores you to tears, then stop. Not at the end of the book, not at the end of the chapter, not even at the end of the sentence, just stop, immediately. If you or your child find what you are reading not interesting, then you should stop. Of course, this is in the context of you reading for pleasure. I think if your child picks up a book and starts reading from the middle page and then a few pages later they decide to put it down, that is perfectly fine. They have tested the book and it failed to interest them, and that is okay. Making someone do something, has rarely worked in making them enjoy it or see it as a pleasurable activity that they would like to do more of.