Between the lines: fathers who read to children are positive role models

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 August, 2014, 9:45am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 August, 2014, 9:45am

In a post on his blog, Chinese University vice-chancellor Joseph Sung Jao-yiu discusses gender equality at the institution, noting that more than half of his undergraduate students are female.

This mirrors the trend in many developed economies of women outnumbering men in tertiary institutions, even in traditionally male-dominated disciplines such as mechanical and electronic engineering, and medical specialities such as orthopaedics and traumatology, he writes.

At Brigham Young University in the US, the school notes on a webpage that there has been a marked increase in girls' academic achievement in the past 40 years. Sadly, educators have also documented a decrease in the academic achievements of boys.

"There are several theories about why this is happening, but perhaps the most compelling is the assertion that school and reading especially, is being seen increasingly by young boys as a "feminine" activity," it notes.

A father reading to his children, and the way he does this, can influence their academic development.

Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook, believes fathers have the power to change this slide.

"Fathers reading to children are one of the very best ways to reverse the academic ambivalence we're seeing in young boys," he writes.

Trelease also cites studies that show that boys who are read to by their fathers score higher in reading achievement than boys whose fathers do little to no reading.

Hearing and seeing a male figure reading shows children, especially boys, that books, and literacy in general, are not just for the girls.

Dads are more likely to choose books that expose kids to a range of topics that mums are less interested in, such as cars, dinosaurs and planes.

So dads' involvement in reading aloud will create common interest for boys and expose girls to new subjects. It is also a great way for a father to connect with his child.

According to research by the Minnesota Fathers and Family Network, when fathers read to children, they help to foster emotional security and aid the relaxation of the child. They also get the chance to share their personal values.

Children also develop reading skills, perform better in school, and are better able to build relationships.

Fathers can play a critical role in a child's literacy development by reading, sharing stories, exploring the world together and engaging in conversations that help a child think for himself.

Reading aloud doesn't take much time, and can provide good memories.

Fathers who read become role models for their sons, and motivate boys to spend more time with books.

By being involved, dads send a message that they care about their child personally as well as academically. It's never too late to start.

Percie Wong is a trainer at Bring Me A Book Hong Kong, a non-profit organisation dedicated to improving children's literacy by reading aloud to them.

iPad app offers first step in coding

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has released an iPad app to help children aged five to seven take their first steps in programming. ScratchJr is a free app based on MIT's Scratch programming language, which is a popular choice for older children learning to code.

The new app encourages children to "program their own interactive stories" using graphical programming blocks. Its creators plan to launch a version for Android devices later this year.

MIT says ScratchJr involves more than learning to program; it promises parents that children will also be developing their maths, problem-solving and language skills.

"Coding is the new literacy," says MIT's Mitchel Resnick. "Just as writing helps you organise your thinking and express your ideas, the same is true for coding. "In the past, it was seen as too difficult for most people. But we think coding should be for everyone, just like writing."

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