For many families story time is a highlight of the day. Sitting together for as little as ten minutes to read books and sing nursery rhymes is enjoyable for parents and is crucial for developing children's literacy skills.
A child's first years are a critical time for their communication development and mothers and fathers both have an essential part to play in this. However a new survey by the National Literacy Trust called Early literacy practices at home in 2015: Third annual survey of parents found that half as many fathers (36.6%) as mothers (71.5%) say they have the most influence over developing their pre-schooler's literacy skills.
While it is promising that more than a third of fathers feel they have most influence over their child's early literacy development, there is a clear opportunity for more dads to share stories with their children from an early age. This is supported by the Department for Education and the Fatherhood Institute.
Our survey indicates that the gender gap in reading starts early, with parents saying that 70.6% of their pre-school daughters read stories daily, compared to 61.1% of their sons. Parents were also more likely to report that there are 'no barriers to your child developing their early literacy skills' if they had a girl (50.1%) than if they had a boy (43.1%). This highlights the importance of fathers becoming their children's reading role models from the outset, as the influence of dads has great benefits for all children, in particular boys .
The survey of 1,000 parents, commissioned by the National Literacy Trust and carried out by YouGov, revealed almost a quarter (24.0%) feel that it is other adults who work with their child, for example teachers, who have the most influence on their child's early literacy skills.
The survey shows that during a typical week two thirds of children (65.7%) look at stories daily at home and the majority (62.9%) typically spend between five and 15 minutes doing this on any given occasion. The survey also found parental attitudes and behaviours towards reading were related to those of their children, with 37% of parents who are very confident about looking at or reading stories at home saying their child was very confident about doing the same. Only 5.4% of parents who say they are fairly confident reported that their children are very confident about looking at or reading stories at home.
Dads and mums are both key reading role models for their children and by supporting each other they will help boys in particular to develop the literacy skills that will transform their future. The Easter holidays are a great opportunity to do just that and we have plenty of tips and activities on our website Words for Life, tailored for parents.
As children's author, comedian and dad David Walliams said: "Sharing a book at bedtime with your child is not only one of life's greatest pleasures, it also really helps them learn to read. I want to encourage parents to make time to read a book with their child whenever they possibly can."
The National Literacy Trust is a national charity dedicated to raising literacy levels in the UK. Our research and analysis make us the leading authority on literacy. We run projects in the poorest communities, campaign to make literacy a priority for politicians and parents, and support schools. To find out more, visit: www.literacytrust.org.uk