This post is sponsored by Disney-Hyperion
I get a lot of questions about how dads can help encourage their children to love reading, and those questions just make my heart sing.
It’s so important for children, especially boys, to see reading as something enjoyable for both men and women.
Bart happens to love reading – he grew up in a family of readers, with both a mom and a dad who are serious readers, and went on to major in comparative literature as an undergrad.
Now days, he doesn’t have a lot of time for reading, but he still cranks through quite a lot of audiobooks and he’s able to make time to squeeze in a few business books and fantasy novels in his limited free time.
No matter what kind of reader a father is, he can be a major role model for his children and help them learn to love reading and books.
Here are six simple ways to make that happen in your home:
- Keep books readily available and slip in a book or two together in a 5 minute pocket of time. It can feel really overwhelming to set aside 30 or 45 minutes to read together, but one picture book can be done in about three minutes. I timed It’s Shoe Time! by Bryan Collier, the newest installment in the Elephant & Piggie Like Reading! series, and reading at regular speed, it took less than 2 minutes and 30 seconds to read the entire thing. You can probably spare less than three minutes on the couch together before dinner or bedtime or before you race out the door to school and work.
- Take turns reading chapter books aloud. I’ve had a couple of events over the last few weeks that meant I was gone at bedtime, so Bart has read a chapter of our read-aloud to the girls before putting them to bed. My girls love filling him in on what’s going on in the book and the next morning I heard a report about how he did accents and much better voices than I do. I remember my dad being a really animated reader on the occasions that he stepped in to read aloud to us when I was little. Also he always pronounced the names differently than my mom did. Those same awesome voice skills came out with It’s Shoe Time! when Bart read it aloud and each shoe got its own distinct personality and accent (not so much when I read it aloud).
- Encourage your children to share their favorite books with their dad. If we read a book that my girls really like, I tell them, “Have Dad read it to you tonight so he can laugh about it too.” And you better believe that he’s unlikely to say no when one of his little girls says, “Will you read this book to me, Daddy? I think you’ll love it.”
- Find out what his favorite books were as a child and buy them or get them from the library. Bart and I both have read lots of the same children’s books, but we also have ones that are special to each of us that the other was completely unfamiliar with. When Ella was born and we started to build our children’s library, I made a point to buy some of the books he remembered most fondly and he loves reading those to the girls (and when I read them to the girl, I try to point out that this was a book Bart loved as a child so they know that reading was a part of his childhood as well).
- Talk about what he’s reading. Reading is so much more than just novels – if he loves non-fiction or magazines or the news or graphic novels, talk about those too so that children can see that reading doesn’t always have to look the same and that it can be a positive part of their lives in more than one way. My dad read pretty much zero novels while I was growing up, but he loves non-fiction and at dinner would occasionally read us a few pages of whatever was going on in the book he was reading after giving us a little background. I still remember the climax of The Perfect Mile: Three Athletes, One Goal, and Less Than Four Minutes to Achieve It that he read aloud to us when Bart and I came to visit shortly after we got married. I didn’t know anything about this story, but because he cared about it, I cared about it.
- Don’t micromanage it. It can be easy if you’re the primary reader to have strong feelings about which books to read, when to read them, and how to read them. But if he sits down to read with your children, let him run the show, even if that show looks nothing like yours does (which is, incidentally, the same lesson that It’s Shoe Time! shares).
If you have suggestions for how dads can encourage reading and model a love of books for your children, I’d love to hear them!
And if you’re looking for a book that’s fun for dads (or moms and aunts and uncles and grandparents!) to read aloud check out the newly-released It’s Shoe Time!, which models such a sweet relationship between father and child, with the trademark wit that I expect from all of the Elephant and Piggie books.
Photos by Christie Knight Photography