The statement “It’s important for dads to read with their kids” sounds painfully obvious, but, even though I’m a dad myself, I find myself saying that phrase more often than I’d like, and in more ways than you’d think.
Sometimes I say it as a mantra, like when I’m at the library or at my daughter’s school and I see significantly more moms reading with their kids than dads. And I say it to remind myself to make reading a priority, get off my butt, and sign up to go read with the kids in my daughter’s class.
Sometimes I say it as a defensive statement, like when I see a story in the news that argues that only 13% of polled fathers said they were the “main household reader” and only 19% of younger dads said they actually enjoyed reading at bedtime with their kids. Which is ridiculous. Even if those statistics are true — and it’s super-depressing to think that they are — those numbers don’t take into account all of the truly, truly amazing dad readers I’ve met over the years, dads who shouldn’t be overshadowed by any headline-grabbing piece of sociological research.
And sometimes I say it as a sales pitch. I’ll tell a dad who might seem apathetic about reading that “It’s important for dads to read with their kids,” and I’m hoping, just hoping they turn around and ask me “WHY?”
Because the “WHY” is the fun part.
Why should dads read with their kids?
Because, while, yes, dads are supposed to protect, feed, and defend their children, they’re also responsible for introducing their kids to the world around them. Books are remarkable tools for doing just that.
And the people reading those books make all the difference.
This is where dads come in.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a particularly confident reader or if you do silly voices for all of the characters. What actually matters is that you’re helping your children understand what they’re reading.
When you read with your kid, you’re seeing if they’re grasping key concepts, you’re answering questions, you’re starting discussions if they’re too hesitant to ask questions on their own. You’re helping them filter all of this crazy knowledge that the book is sharing through a perspective, YOUR unique perspective, and that helps make all that new information much more human and relatable.
And, personally, I think the perspective of a dad has a whole lot of value.
Granted, it’s important for ALL types of caregivers to do this, but, all too often, I see dads opt out of reading because they’d rather handle some other parenting duty and I think they’re missing the point.
You’re not just reading them a story. You’re holding their hand, opening a door, and showing them what the world is like.
If that introduction is too big, scary, or confusing, you’re the one there with them, trying to explain what everything means. And, even if you don’t know what everything means, you’re there as their partner, saying, “Jeez, I don’t know. Let’s find out together.”
That’s a big deal. And, as a dad, that’s something I want to be there for.
So, yes, it is important for dads to read with the kids. Duh. But it’s not because it’s something we HAVE to do. It’s because, when we read with our kids, we have the chance to share some small part of ourselves with our children and that’s an opportunity that no dad should miss.