Reading bedtime stories to your kids is probably one of life’s most overlooked pleasures. Yet so many parents seem to take it for granted, I think. At the end of a long hard day, evening recitations of The Cat in the Hat or Where the Sidewalk Ends might seem like a chore or a duty or something to a lot of people, but the impact parent/child story time has on young children is monumental.
We should remember that and remind ourselves of it on a daily basis. Yes, so much of the world is digital and swift these days, but that fine art of leaning back on the pillows and reading a tale to your kids is priceless. And when we skip it because we’re just too tired or uninterested, well, it may just be that we’re skipping out on a lot more than we realize.
Especially us dads.
A great little article that just ran in Britain’s The Guardian newspaper shines an intriguing light on the fact that fathers may play a more important role in reading bedtime stories than even they realize. It turns out that Britain has a pretty cool week leading up to their own Father’s Day, which happens before our own. The week is called Fathers’ Story Week, and it’s a period in which dads across the pond are heartily encouraged to read to their sons and daughters not just because they have to, but because they should want to.
See, as writer David Atkinson aptly points out, “In a preschool world dominated by female figures, dads are different — hence they exert more potential to influence social learning.”
In other words, when Dad decides to read the bedtime story, there is a distinct probability that his children find it even more special than when mom does it. Kids are way more used to women teachers and moms reading to them on a daily basis. But when it’s Dad telling the story, a new found magic is introduced as sleepy heads are listening.
Plus, as the article states, the British-based Fatherhood Institute has conducted a bunch of research about bedtime stories and the impact they have on kids, and Adrienne Burgess, a CEO with group, says that “Evidence suggests that when dads do bedtime stories well, they can have more impact,” largely because, “Mums tend to stick to the script but dads talks round the story, respond to the child, and ask more questions.”
That’s a really interesting insight, I think, and to be honest, I often find myself riffing on things that I’m reading to my own kids. It’s kind of like jazz in a way. I hit a particular note, or in this case, stumble upon a compelling tidbit in the book I’m reading to my 5-year-old daughter, Violet, and my 3-year-old son, Henry, be it about dinosaurs or fairies or baby ducklings or whatever, and the next thing I know, I’m out on some wild tangent of a conversation with them, discussing stuff with them that might actually end up miles away from the book we’re wandering from.
I love when that happens. And evidently, so do my kids.
Further research mentioned in the article indicates that “… preschoolers whose dads read to them a lot behave and concentrate better at nursery and do better in maths … At age five, these children know and use more words, can pick out letters more accurately, and are better at problem solving. By age ten, their vocabulary is wider and their numeracy skills are better, too.”
It appears too, that all of this Dad story time stuff is especially vital when it comes to young boys.
Dr. Emyr Williams, a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Glyndwr University in North Wales tells The Guardian, “Fathers, grandfathers, and other male relatives have the opportunity to change the path of literacy for young boys by encouraging a deep appreciation of literature established within a well-developed internal working model of seeing their hero read.”
As a dad who loves books and literature and reading himself, it thrills me to think that my role in ‘story time’ might have invaluable impact on my children’s lives. But it also makes me a little bit sad when I think about the stark reality that so many moms and dads might be in the dark about just how special and important reading to our kids really is.
We are are living through Technological Age, no doubt about that. But when you think about it, maybe the slow, lingering telling of bedtimes stories is more important now than ever before. This Father’s Day then, perhaps the best gift any of us dads could get is a couple of dog-eared old copies of kid’s books. Books made magic by the very fact that Daddy will be reading them out loud later on that night.
Editor’s Note: We couldn’t help but recommend this book as a perfect punctuation mark to Serge’s piece. Daddy’s Zigzagging Bedtime Story by Alan Lawrence Sitomer, Illustrated by Abby Carter is a clever and hilarious bedtime book that celebrates just how fantastic dads are at spinning bedtime yarns for their kids. Like the kids in his story, your “pickle quackers” will be pleading for “just one more” at the book’s end. A follow up to Daddies Do It Different, Sitomer’s Daddy’s Zigzagging Bedtime Story is published by Disney-Hyperion and in book stores now.
Info source: The Guardian