More Than One Reason To Read To Your Child

Mums and dads read to their children, but they do it differently from one another. A study from Harvard University in the US maintains that children reap more benefit if they are read to by their fathers as mothers tended to ask ‘teacher-like’, factual questions, whereas the dads tend to favour more abstract questions which spark imaginative discussions. Lead researcher, Elisabeth Duursma, said: “The impact is huge, particularly if dads start reading to kids under the age of two.”

The latest research from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) has opened the book on how children’s improvement in language is influenced by the involvement of their dad. Researchers found that when fathers read to their children at home, the child’s language development increased as they grew older.

The shared reading experience is highly beneficial for young children. These benefits include facilitating enriched language exposure, fostering the development of listening skills, spelling, reading comprehension and vocabulary, and establishing essential foundational literacy skills. They are also an opportunity for parents to foster positive attitudes toward reading and education in their children.

When we read aloud to children it is also beneficial for their cognitive development, with parent-child reading activating brain areas related to narrative comprehension and mental imagery. While most of the research in this area focuses on young children, this does not mean that these benefits somehow disappear as children age. In fact, parents should continue to read to their children even when they are able to read for themselves. The 2016 Western Australia Study in Children’s Book Reading found that while some children do not mind no longer being read to, others are disappointed when it stopped.

A father’s education does influence his attitude and practice of reading to his children. A father with lower education might not feel confident to read to his children and therefore shuns it. Mothers, on the other hand, do not seem to be affected in the same way. For mothers, the interaction seems to be driven more by the attachment that results from the shared experience of reading together. Fathers can see one-to-one reading with a young child more as a relationship experience than a teaching one.

Duursma, E. (2014). The effects of fathers’ and mothers’ reading to their children on language outcomes of children participating in Early Head Start in the United States. Fathering, 12 (3), 283-302.

Dad’s reading is new chapter in child’s language development. Murdoch Children’s Research Institute January 17, 2018.

Merga, M. K. (2017). Interactive reading opportunities beyond the early years: What educators need to consider. Australian Journal of Education, 61(3), 328–343.

This article is written by Parcsen Loke.

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