If there’s one thing my husband and I always argue about, it’s our kids’ nighttime routine. We’re at the point where we’d like to see our kids, ages 7 and 5, taking their showers and brushing their teeth by themselves, but it hasn’t happened yet. My husband has a 55-hour work week, while I juggle motherhood, freelance writing, and volunteering at my kids’ school, so by the time 7 PM rolls around, we’re both exhausted. And the struggle is real to get our kids to bed without dragon breath.
When I think back to my own childhood, I can’t remember my parents getting on my case about getting ready for bed by 8 PM, but what I do remember is my father always reading me a bedtime story before the lights were turned out. I vividly recall him reading me my favorite Berenstain Bears series, The Day Snuffy Had the Sniffles, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and so many others. I’m sure my mother read to me too, but for some reason I mostly remember lying on the floor of our living room with my dad, snacking on a Kit-Kat bar and listening to him read.
Well, apparently there’s a few good reasons why I have so many vivid memories of my father reading me my favorite books. According to a Harvard University study, children benefit more from their father reading bedtimes stories than their mother. First, it’s because dads are more likely to spark imaginative discussions, and second, since reading is often seen as a feminine activity, when a male reads there’s a good chance that a child is more inclined to listen.
Now, before you take out your pitchforks, yes I know moms are great readers, too (I’m one myself). But the study also further explains that moms are more likely to ask factual questions after a story while dads often like to discuss details that are more cognitively challenging (as in encouraging children to use their brains more for language development.)
Recently, British comedian David Walliams led an initiative to get dads to read with their children for at least 20 minutes a day — and I couldn’t agree with him more. In my own home, I’ve noticed that my children are more inclined to listen to my husband when he’s reading to them than when I do. It might be his deep, masculine voice or his unique command of words, but whatever it is, they’re listening. And that’s what matters, right?
So does all of this mean that dads are doing better jobs than moms when it comes to the all-important nighttime countdown with a book? Not necessarily. I’d argue that kids being read to by anyone is better than them not being read to at all. But if my kids are more inclined to remember a story from my husband reading it to them than me, then by all means he can read every Amelia Bedelia and Charlie and Lola book under the sun. I have no problem taking a spot on the foot of the bed and listening in, too.
The best benefit to having my husband read to our kids is that it de-stresses him after a long day at work and it also gives me an opportunity to relax and wind down, too.
Now if only we can get our kids to remember to brush their teeth before their bedtime story, we’d all win.