When I was 8 years old, my father read me The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley.

I snuggled deep under the blankets as he read aloud and wished that the book would never end.

As it turns out, my nights with Dad and Tom the chimney sweep are more than just cherished memories.

A study conducted this year by New York University, found that fathers who read to their children improve their communication skills, and better equip them for further learning.


In the project, 126 low-income fathers and their pre-school age children were enrolled in an 8-week programme or put on a waitlist (as a control group).

Those on the programme participated in a 90-minute long session each week where they watched dads reading to kids (with exaggerated errors).

In these sessions they were encouraged to identify better approaches and discuss what strategies they could adopt in their own reading.

A majority of the dads reported improvement in their kid’s attitude, discipline, language abilities and communication skills.

And it didn’t just benefit the children. Dads improved too.

Those who participated in the study noted better parenting and an increase in positive behaviour. Dads on the scheme were more likely to show their kids affection and praise them.


So far, so good. But is the same true of mothers?

An older study by Harvard University shows that when dad reads a bedtime story, kids have a more imaginative response.

And because their imagination is sparked, they tend to discuss the story more – which develops their language skills.

Sorry Mum.

Elisabeth Duursma, who conducted the research, explained:

“The impact is huge, particularly if dads start reading to kids under the age of two. Reading is seen as a female activity and kids seem to be more tuned in when their dad reads to them – it’s special.”

I’ll never know how much our nightly reading of The Water Babies affected my development, but definitely had an impact.

My father made me the reader I am today, and for that I’ll always be grateful.


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