Reading is one of the most important activities any parent can share with their child. Early childhood reading is linked to children’s development, academic growth, and overall life outcomes and opportunities. As the writer of the children's book, Whatever Happened to the Boy Who Played Basketball All Night?, I have been fortunate to witness firsthand the benefits of reading in the lives of children of all ages. Unfortunately, I have also encountered some children whose parents read to them very rarely. More often, I hear stories about fathers who NEVER read to their children. This is a very sad reality which must be addressed.
Children often become curious about reading by watching and copying their parents. Although mothers are absolutely essential in this process, research shows that fathers are particularly influential for children’s communication and reading attainment. We must encourage fathers as they commit to reading to their children. Did your father read to you as a child? Answer this question in your head and reflect on this experience. We most certainly define the term Father as all male-identifying individuals serving that role in a relationship with a child.
When fathers connect with their children by reading to them and by being kind, gentle, caring, and intellectually stimulating during activity, their children read better, have more extensive vocabularies and are more prepared to start school than children with fathers who are less involved. Fathers who take part more often in reading with their children, and fathers who are soft and nurturing with their children, report improvement in their own literacy skills.
It is a sad and harsh reality we must face in our communities. Many fathers are not reading at a satisfactory level so they shy away from it all together. We must encourage fathers to improve their reading skills, which may lead to additional benefits aside from the influence on the child. Fathers increasing their own literacy skills may lead to better job prospects, increased social skills and improved self-confidence.
Although you must select literature that will spark your child's interest, you should also find stories that you think are attractive and compelling. Which attributes do you wish to pass on to your child? Seek out literature reflecting those qualities you wish to impart into your child. Have you noticed your child struggling in any area? There is no need to recreate the wheel as you try to remedy your child's anxiety or struggle. Simply find the best age appropriate book, sit down with your child and explore the words and ideas found within. Books are the original portals to infinite universes and experiences.
You may not be able to safari in the wilderness of Uganda, but you can certainly expose your child to the wonders of the jungles of Uganda with a simple book completed with beautiful colors and boundless words. Children's literature is as infinite as the imagination. A good book can unlock worlds. I grew up in the mighty Englewood community of Chicago. We are a shining community that fought hard to claim victory in this moment. My childhood community was infamous due to the lack of equity, the lack of social cohesion and the lack of access. So often, little Englewood children internalized the negative depictions of our community. This internalization was only made possible because our children had limited opportunities to explore the potentials of their futures.
Although reading and the process of using your imagination is in the absolute present, the benefits of visualizing beyond the current circumstances will open doors to infinite paths leading to a future created by the child. Fathers, sitting with your child and sharing literature is the most proactive early investment you can make into your child's future. This is not a burden, it is a joyous obligation. We must help one another as we commit to the basic essential components of humanity. This is a most worthy cause with zero rational objection. You have been challenged to pick up a good book and share it with your child. Always remember, Real Fathers Read.
www.basketballallnight.com | Photo Credit: L. Jones.