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Reading To Children Has Countless Benefits

Dad Reading To Child

You’ve become a dad. A wonderful new job awaits you and one part of the job is especially important. Reading.

OK, you’ve finished work and you might be wanting to put your feet up. Maybe have a beer or two. But this is a great time to bond with your daughter or son.

A typical Dad plays with kids. Mums tend to cuddle and do a hundred different mothering things. What’s Dad going to do? Most of us play games. “Hey, where’s Dad gone?” or “Let’s play hide and seek”. Would you believe even today I arrive at my daughter’s house and all the grand-kids are hiding?  I chase after them and I can hear the giggles already. And when I find them, there are shouts of laughter.

I used to like reading to my kids. Sssh, don’t tell anyone – I’m a big show-off.  Hey, you can be, too! So you get to read the stories and be the Big Bad Wolf. Or the Three Bears. Dad, you have a big voice and you can growl and groan and moan.  Go for it, the kids will love it. Mum might be rolling her eyes, but the kid is laughing. And then you might get “Read it again!”

Dads don’t read the same as Mums. 

Mums are sweet and gentle – they emphasise closeness and feminine things. Guess what- Dads don’t. They ask more questions. A favourite of mine was “What Do People Do All Day”. Lots of stuff about work: what do I do all day if I’m a carpenter, or a policeman, or a builder? Dads connect their kids to the world of work through asking questions, commenting on things, comparing things.

I used to do crazy things, reversing syllables so we got “Rindersella and the prandsome hince”. Only to be told “Daddy! Read it properly!”. Reading is a chance for you to bond with your kid as they snuggle up and look at the book with you. Kids want the real you and they love you for it.

There are books out there with songs. Sing along with the kids. They don’t want any big-time guy – they want you. They like the sound of your voice, however, it sounds. I watch kids who hear Dad coming and they jump up and run to him, “Daddy! Daddy! Today I found a great big spider..”….they can’t wait to talk to Dad. Boys want to tell dad about their games, their new cartwheels, and their eyes shine and open wide as they do it. Meanwhile, a daughter might just snuggle up. Go with what they want.

Related: 10 Enriching Activities For Kids On School Holidays

The research is there. Reading with children has countless benefits. It gets them used to books. It gives them a background for learning. It strengthens their vocabulary. It connects you with kids’ emotional life. Pick up some books when you’re out with the kids or ask them what they want to read. Take photos of a few books if you see them when shopping, and send them to the kid to check. Boys and girls usually have very different interests. Let them read what they want.

Dad, kids want your love. Give them your full attention, don’t bury your head in your phone and remember to listen to them reading. We all want to be listened to. Don’t you?

WHAT DADS CAN DO

1. Realise that reading is a great way of being close to your kids.

2. Read anything that you both enjoy.

3. Throw yourself into it. Act out the Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf. Get as excited as you can with The Very Hungry Caterpillar or the Great Big Enormous Turnip.

4. Sing some favourite songs as you read with them.

Kids grow up so fast. Kids at two have most of their key learning and their personality already. And reading is a great way of teaching them and sharing with them. Clown around a bit as you read. You might be a bigger showoff than me!

DR PETER WEST IS AN AUTHOR AND CASUAL LECTURER AT AUSTRALIAN CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY, SYDNEY. HIS WEBSITE IS BOYSEDUCATION.COM.AU

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