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Literacy news

A third of dads are never seen reading

18 Dec 2012

Our new research shows that far fewer dads than mums encourage their children to read. In fact, one in three fathers gives no reading encouragement to their children at all. What’s more, the statistics from our annual survey also highlight that one third of dads are never even seen with a book in their hand, compared with one in six mums.

There is a great case for dads to step up their involvement and make a positive impact on their children’s reading development: the research also found that the children who are encouraged to read by their parents are achieving higher reading levels at school, and those who see their parents reading think more positively about reading than those who don’t.

Richard Madeley is supporting the call by Words for Life, our campaign for parents, for dads to get involved with their children’s reading this Christmas, when they may have extra time to spend with their families. Richard says:

Dads can make a huge difference to their children’s reading development, and there are lots of easy ways for dads to get involved. They can read a chapter a night to their kids, read school books together, or even put up their feet and be seen reading a book or the newspaper themselves!

I started reading to my children when they were just babies, putting on the different voices and having fun with the stories. My kids have grown up to be big book fans and I think this was partly down to me enjoying books with them from an early age. Have fun reading over Christmas, dads!

The research surveyed 21,000 children and young people across the UK. Some of the key findings are:

  • One in three (32.9%) dads are never seen reading by their children – versus one in seven (14.9%) mums
  • This is a worsening trend – two years ago, only one in four dads (24.9%) was never seen reading by their children
  • Far fewer dads than mums encourage their children to read (66.3% versus 82.6%)
  • Below average readers are four times more likely to say their dad doesn’t encourage them to read
  • One young person in seven has never been to a bookshop

The role of fathers in encouraging communication and literacy development in their babies and young children is set to become even more important under the new system of flexible parental leave being introduced in 2015. New mothers will be able to return to work two weeks after childbirth and share the rest of their maternity leave with their partner, so a dad’s input will become even more crucial.

Director Jonathan Douglas said:

It’s old fashioned to think that encouraging reading is just down to mothers. Children learn behaviours from both parents, and boys in particular benefit from male role models.  With the forthcoming changes to parental leave, a father’s role in their child’s communication and literacy development is set to become of even greater importance.

Words for Life is a National Literacy Trust campaign targeted at parents and carers to give them the tools, resources and confidence to give their child the best possible foundation in communication, reading and writing skills. One person in six in the UK cannot read, write or communicate as well as they need, and parental input, particularly in the early years, plays a key part in how well a child’s literacy skills develop.

Dads can find ideas and inspiration for simple activities they can do with their children this Christmas to help them develop better literacy skills at

Read the full report online.

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Tags: Families, Young People

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The National Literacy Trust is a registered charity no. 1116260 and a company limited by guarantee no. 5836486 registered in England and Wales and a registered charity in Scotland no. SC042944.
Registered address: 68 South Lambeth Road, London SW8 1RL.