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Our early years research highlights need for more dads to get involved in their children’s story time

22 Mar 2016

We are urging dads to get more involved in their children’s early literacy development after our latest survey found that half as many fathers as mothers say they have the most influence over developing their pre-schooler’s literacy skills.

Our report, Early literacy practices at home in 2015: Third annual survey of parents, shows that while more than a third of dads (36.6%) of children aged between three and five feel they have the most influence over their young child’s literacy development, significantly more mums (71.5%) said the same.

The survey also indicates that the gender gap in reading starts early, with parents reporting 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 points to an opportunity for fathers to be reading role models from the outset, as the influence of dads has great benefits for all children, in particular boys[i].

Our Director Jonathan Douglas said:

“While it is promising that over one 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. 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.”  


 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.”

 Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said:

“Every child should read widely and read well, giving them the best opportunity to get on in life. One of the best ways to foster that love of reading is for mums and dads to get involved as early as possible and I would encourage everyone to spend a few minutes a day reading with their child.

The Fatherhood Institute, which runs a programme called Fathers Reading Every Day, stressed that local authorities, schools, early years and other family services – as well as parents themselves – often under-estimate the significance of fathers’ involvement in children’s education.

Fatherhood Institute joint chief executive Adrienne Burgess said:

"We know that fathers and father-figures are hugely influential on child outcomes, but services remain resolutely mother-focused and little is done to actively reach out to and engage with dads, or to support mums to share the responsibility for supporting the children’s education. The time to rectify this is long overdue."

Read more in our press release

Read the full report

[i] Trent and Slade, 2001, Wragg et al., 1998, Gallimore and colleagues (1991), Lloyd (1999).

Tags: Early Years, Early years sector

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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.