Do dads read aloud differently? And why it’s important that fathers do storytime

Do dads read aloud differently? And why it’s important that fathers do storytime

Do you remember your father reading to you? Or if you’re a dad now, do you enjoy reading time with the kids?

We were enlightened by some fascinating research by Dr Elisabeth Duursma. While at Harvard University (she’s now based at the University of Wollongong), Dr Duursma looked at the benefits associated with fathers reading to their kids.

She found that dads on low incomes who read to their children at age three had a major impact on their child’s language development, when measured one year later.

Further research has indicated that when mothers read it did not have this same significant impact on child development.

So what’s different about dads reading?

In part, it’s perception: ‘Reading is seen as a female activity and kids seem to be more tuned in when their dad reads to them – it’s special.’

Michael Rosen, author of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, is one son who remembers his father’s read-aloud sessions. He told The Guardian:

“When I was about 12, our father decided that he would read to us on our camping holidays and over several of these holidays he read the whole of Great Expectations, Little Dorrit and a Walter Scott novel, Guy Mannering

“Because he was in the US army, he was very good at American accents and he read us Catcher in the Rye and Catch-22 when I was in my teens.”


Duursma also found significant differences in the style of language dads use:

“We found that fathers used more abstract and complex language.
When sharing a book with their child, they would often link events in the book to a child’s own experience.

“For example, when a ladder was discussed in the book, many fathers mentioned the last time
they had used a ladder to climb up on the roof or use it for their work.
Mothers focused more on the details in the book and often asked children to label or count objects or identify colours.”

This is not to say that mothers shouldn’t read to their kids! In her full article on ‘The effects of fathers’ and mothers’ reading to their children on language outcomes of children participating in early head start in the United States’, Duursma also mentions how mothers lay the groundwork for children’s language development as well as the cumulative benefit of more book reading by both parents and others in children’s lives.

Duursma is now at the University of Wollongong’s Early Start Research Institute where she recently undertook a study of 800 children from NSW, which suggested a connection between poor language skills and less time spent at home on book reading , drawing and making puzzles, which require fine motor and language skills.

(Sources: University of Wollongong; Daily Mail UK; The Guardian)


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Publisher details

We're Going on a Bear Hunt
Helen Oxenbury, Michael Rosen
Walker Books
Children’s Picture Book
01 August, 2015


For brave hunters and bear-lovers, the classic chant-aloud by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury in an enlarged edition.We're going on a bear hunt. We're going to catch a big one. Will you come too? For a quarter of a century, readers have been swishy-swashying and splash-sploshing through this award-winning favourite. Follow and join in the family's excitement as they wade through the grass, splash through the river and squelch through the mud in search of a bear. What a surprise awaits them in the cave on the other side of the dark forest!#7 in the Top 50 Kids' Books 2019 - Younger Readers
Michael Rosen
About the author

Michael Rosen

Michael Rosen is one of the best-known figures in the children's book world. He is renowned for his work as a poet, performer, broadcaster and scriptwriter. He visits schools with his one-man show to enthuse children with his passion for books and poetry. In 2007 he was appointed Children's Laureate, a role which he held until 2009. While Laureate, he set up The Roald Dahl Funny Prize which give awards to the funniest children's books of the year. He currently lives in London with his wife and children.

Books by Michael Rosen


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