by Courtney Davis, Denton County Extension Agent – Family & Consumer Sciences
One of the things I love most in this world is watching my husband interact with our daughters. Bedtime has quickly become one of my favorite times of the day, simply because I love watching them as they pile in his chair and read a story each night. My girls really look forward to this special time with their father and are benefiting from more than just the bond that they’ve created.
We have been adamant about reading to our children since they were very young. Reading to your children early in life can not only help with enhancing your child’s vocabulary, but it also introduces them to components of stories. It stimulates their imaginations and provides them with information about the world. It also promotes positive parent-child interaction.
While it’s important for anyone to read to your children, there are special benefits if fathers (or father figures) read to their child. When fathers are actively involved in the education of their children, they are more likely to receive A’s, more likely to participate in extracurricular activities, more likely to enjoy school and less likely to repeat a grade; all while contributing to their cognitive and social development. Taking the time to read to kids shows them how much you care. You will help them feel better about themselves and kids’ whose fathers are caring and involved are more confident.
When children are really young, it doesn’t matter what you read to them. Read the newspaper or your favorite magazine. Even if your kids don’t understand all the words, hearing your voice, watching your face, and being close to you are important.
When you read, there’s no pressure. There is not a “right way” or “wrong way” to read to your child. Our two year old is not likely to sit through a book with a lot of words. Rather than stress over reading all of the words on each page, we will look at the pictures and make up the story as we go along. Each time we “read” the book, the story is different and she loves to make up the adventure as we go. You can also engage your child by asking them questions as you read along. What did the characters do? How did they feel? What was your favorite part of the story? This helps them to comprehend what they are reading and can lead to interesting conversations with your child.
Reading can also be done at a distance. If you travel or if your kids live with someone else, try reading to them over the phone. If you both have a copy of the book, your kids can follow along as you read it to them. The important thing is making the connection!
By reading to your kids, you can do what nobody else can do – set your kids on the road to a bright future. And you’ll be a hero to the most special people in the world – your kids.
For more information, tips for reading to children, and for a list of suggested books by age, visit denton.agrilife.org or contact Courtney Davis, Denton County Extension Agent for Family and Consumer Sciences at (940) 349-2882 or [email protected].