Reading to the girls is one of my favourite things to do. Whether it’s at bedtime or during the day, we always have books around, and the girls know that if Mummy or Daddy aren’t busy we’ll be more than happy to read to them.
Every night at bedtime, each of them gets to pick a book and either me or Gem will read it to them. Most nights we split bedtime between us, so I’ll take Megan up and Gem will take Heather up, swapping over the next night. That balance was a deliberate move on our part, as we didn’t want to end up in a situation where only Mummy or only Daddy could read the bedtime story, because sooner or later that’s going to cause a problem, if one of us is out for example.
That’s just the way we roll, though – when it comes to the kids, pretty much everything gets split equally down the middle. As it should be.
It seems I’m in the minority though, going by figures released today by Booktrust, as they launch a campaign to get Dads to read more to their kids. “Only one in eight dads takes the lead with reading to their children” they say. Which is certainly a headline grabbing statistic (and one which has got coverage from the BBC and the Guardian among others) but let’s stop and think about it for a moment. What does it actually tell us? And was this the right question to be asking?
I put the question of who “takes the lead” with reading to the girls to Gemma, and after a slightly confused pause for thought, she answered “em, both of us?”. Which made me happy, because it meant I wasn’t overvaluing my own contribution! But if we both read equally, doesn’t that make me one of the 87% of dads who aren’t taking a lead? Does that mean I’m a bad dad?
It sounds like I’m bashing Booktrust here, but I’m not. I wholeheartedly approve of their campaign. By reading to me, and by reading themselves, my parents gave me a love of the written word that I’m keen to pass on to my own children. Enjoying books and reading for pleasure enriches life in so many ways, not least in improving literacy. Which, in an age where the internet is used for so much of our daily communication (news sites, emails, Facebook, Twitter etc), is arguably more important than ever.
There may well be a shortage of dads who read to their kids, and a campaign to encourage more dads to do so is to be applauded. I just wish they’d picked some better survey questions with which to launch it.