Research shows it’s more beneficial for dad, rather than mom, to read to a child, writes Dorothy Ewels
Bedtime story duty was typically shared between my mom and dad. But for the most part it was my dad, reading to me each evening while my mom either did chores or cooked dinner—to keep me entertained and ‘out of her hair’. I’ve had a love affair with reading since a young age, and it’s one of my favourite childhood memories with my dad.
While reading is good for children in general, recent studies have shown that daddy reading to his kids is actually more beneficial than mommy relating the usual night-time tales. This is because when we, as mothers, read to our children, we tend to engage in a completely different way to dads—and it’s the very difference in our approach that makes it more beneficial to our children.
Research by Harvard University in the US found the following:
• There’s a huge impact if dad starts reading to his little one before the age of 2.
• Dad asks different questions to mom. For example, mom would ask questions like: “What was the colour of the bird in the tree?” or “How do you think that made her feel?” Dad’s more like, “What do you think would happen if the little bug hopped on the butterfly’s back and they flew away together?” This sparks a creative debate and your child’s imagination.
• Apparently, girls particularly benefit more when read to by dad, since reading is widely regarded as a female activity. Girls seem to engage more when their dad reads to them—it’s special.
• It’s been found to improve language skills and vocabulary, as dads place focus and emphasis on different things.
• The one-on-one attention is appreciated.
For the most part, moms generally spend twice as much time with the children as dads, so when dad interacts with them without mom, they enjoy the attention. Reading together strengthens the bond between dad and child.
A separate study done by the Murdoch children’s Research Institute in Melbourne, Australia found that:
• It aided children with their communication skills and how well younger children could express themselves.
• Children seemed more aware of their surroundings and better able to identify real-life things they’d seen in books.
• Both dad and children benefited from the time spent reading, as it allowed them to wind down and relax.
Further research by the British Journal of Educational Psychology showed that dads reading to their children sent a positive message about reading. In an age where reading is passed over for playing electronic games, it shows children from a young age that reading is ‘cool’.
The Fatherhood Institute added their findings that children who were read to by their dad were better behaved and concentrated more at nursery school. They seemed to perform better at maths, too.
The University of Sussex also noted that this special time shared diminished stress levels, with participants’ muscle tension relaxing and heart rates decreasing within six minutes of turning pages. So there you have it: The research has spoken, dads! There are many benefits to the special bonding time you share as you read from Dr Seuss, Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton and JK Rowling. But, best of all, you get to enjoy time with your little one.