We’ve said it before, but it's worth repeating — reading books to your child from infancy can cause significant impacts on her social and emotional development, and can lessen the possibility of negative behaviors. This activity has also been found to lead to an improvement in a child’s skills in speaking and listening and vocabulary. If reading books is a part of your daily routine at home already, that is great, but we hope it's not just mommy reading stories out loud — dads should join in on the fun!
Rewards of dads reading bedtime stories
A 2017 study published in the Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology found that when fathers spend time reading books to their kids, they not only experience an improvement in their parenting skills but also positively impact their child’s school readiness and behavior.
The study, which was conducted by researchers from New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, aimed to evaluate the effects of an intervention called "Fathers Supporting Success in Preschoolers." It's a program that focuses on “integrating parent training with shared book reading to improve outcomes among fathers and their preschool children,” according to a press release from NYU.
The researchers recruited 126 fathers and their preschool-aged kids, most of whom were Spanish speakers. At random, some families were assigned to participate in the program, while others were put on the waitlist, which served as the control group.
The families who participated in the intervention attended eight weekly 90-minute sessions, where they were shown videos of fathers reading books with their children, but which had exaggerated errors. The fathers then needed to identify mistakes done in the videos, and discuss these in small and large groups. After that, they were encouraged to put the strategies discussed during their shared book reading experiences with their kids.
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To get their findings, the researchers looked at factors such as how the program influenced the fathers’ parenting skills before and immediately after participating in it, the behavior and language skills of the kids, the symptoms of stress and depression reported by the fathers, and the fathers’ attendance in the weekly sessions. They evaluated observations by the researchers, standardized language assessments, and reports from the dads themselves.
Dads who read to their children improve their parenting skills
The researchers found that fathers who participated in the program reported improved parenting behaviors — they made fewer critical statements and utilized positive parenting techniques, such as praise and affection.
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Those fathers’ children were also found to manifest improved psychological growth, as promoted by those improved parenting approaches. Enhanced language development was found to be another effect of participation in the program, along with an improvement of over 30% in parenting and school readiness outcomes.
Another study published in 2015 reported similar findings as to the NYU research. The 2015 study, led by researchers from Harvard University, found that children actually benefited more when their dads read bedtime stories to them. This was because fathers were found to be more inclined towards asking questions that initiate “imaginative discussions,” compared to moms, who tended to ask more factual questions.
“Dads were more likely to say something, ‘Oh look, a ladder. Do you remember when I had that ladder in my truck?’” Dr. Elisabeth Duursma, who conducted the study, told The Telegraph.
She elaborated, “That is great for children’s language development because they have to use their brains more. It’s more cognitively challenging.”
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Moms should not stop reading to their kids, of course, because children love hearing their moms’ voices! Studies have shown that hearing their mom’s voice can provide kids with the emotional comfort, and they can recognize their mothers’ voices even after having heard it for just less than a second.
The findings of this study show that the bond between dads and their kids is just as important as that between moms and their kids and that activities as simple as reading books together before tucking a child into bed can do a lot in fostering that bond. Encourage dad to take some time to read some bedtime stories with your child — not only is it good for them both, but it also allows you an opportunity to unwind! Win-win situation, right?