/ 18 June 2020

Why dads matter: How reading to your kids can make a difference

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This June Nal’ibali — the national reading-for-enjoyment campaign — is focusing on fathers and father figures and the powerful role men can play in their children’s lives, simply by reading and spending time with them.

Did you know that the amount of time fathers spend reading with their children is one of the best ways of predicting how well their children will read and write in the future?

And, because children who read regularly for pleasure perform better in the classroom, regardless of their family’s financial or social status, fathers everywhere can easily give their children a powerful academic boost simply by spending time reading and sharing stories with them.

What’s more, the time spent reading together will have the added benefit of building a deep, emotional bond, contributing to their children’s wellbeing.

Fathers can also connect with their children in other ways too. The amount of time dads spend with their children has been shown to have more of an effect on their children’s school results than the amount of money they earn.

This is all the more reason to read and connect with your children this Father’s Day.

Try out these tips for connecting with your children:

• Read or share stories with your children for 10 to 15 minutes each day. Find Nal’ibali’s free children’s stories in a range of South African languages online at nalibali.org.

• Place encouraging notes in your child’s lunchbox or school books. Simple notes can go a long way in building a child’s confidence and reminding them you’re there, no matter what.

• Praise your children in front of their friends. This builds their self-esteem and shows children how to think and talk positively about themselves and each other.

• Keep eye contact and give feedback when talking and engaging with your children. Keeping eye contact shows your children that you respect them and take them seriously.

• Express your love for your children openly and give lots of hugs. This increases the feel-good hormone oxytocin, which also reduces pain and causes a calming sensation. And, it’s free.

• Use social media to keep in touch. This is great if your children live far away.

• Plan special one-on-one time and do something they love. If this can’t be done in person, establish a dedicated FaceTime or Zoom video chat.

• Just be there. By showing up at school sports and music events you are showing your interest and support in their development. See the delight in their eyes when you arrive at a school function.

• Share family stories to create a feeling of belonging. Children love hearing stories about their parents when they were young. And remember to embellish — there is no need for the absolute truth to get in the way of a good story.

For more information about the Nal’ibali campaign, or to access children’s stories in a range of local languages, visit nalibali.org, or send the word “stories” to 060 044 2254 . You can also find Nal’ibali on Facebook and Twitter: @nalibaliSA
Sally du Preez works for the Nal’ibali campaign