Saturday, April 19, 2008

Who shares the biggest responsibility for reading to your children?

The International Reading Association pointed me to this article that details the results of a recent poll conducted among 2,200 adults in the UK. Forty two percent of the fathers polled said they didn't read bedtime stories to their children, citing stress and long work hours as the number one reasons. Seventy six percent of mothers, on the other hand, say they DO read bedtime stories to their children. The article goes on to say that boys need male role models to read to them in order to get them to love reading.

Hmmmm....I'm not sure what I think about this. I know the intent of the study was probably to convince fathers to read to their children, but what about the households that don't have a male parent? I know plenty of mothers who read to their sons, who in turn, grow into avid readers. Without knowing enough about the study, it doesn't seem as if they interviewed families that fell outside of the "traditional" definition of family (mother/father/child(ren)).

There is no doubt about it that children should be read to, but does it matter which parent? Should both parents, whether it's mother/father, mother/mother, father/father, share the responsibility? I think that when children get read to from a variety of people, it exposes them to more books, but does it have to be a parent?

In my household, I do read to my daughter the most, but I think that's because I'm more likely to pick up a book and start reading than my husband who prefers to get on the floor and play with her. However, he does read to her, and I play with her. Her grandparents also read to her when they see her, and she gets read to every day in daycare. I also love to watch her being read to and to see the different approaches people use. For example, my mother-in-law will point at the pictures and make up her own story while I often read the text word for word. My husband will do a little of both, and Miss Mary, her daycare teacher tends to use more exaggerated body language and different voices.

But what if there is only one person who reads to a child? Does that mean that child is less likely to become a reader? I don't think so, and I don't think it has to be a parent. Sometimes it's a teacher, a neighbor, an aunt or uncle who opens up the door to reading.

What do you think? Who shares the biggest responsibility for reading to your children in your household?


  1. I always heard that if there is a male role model in the household that a male child would be more likely to read if he sees his father/male role model reading. Maybe because he will see that reading isn't so "girly." I read to my children during the day and take them to the library for storytime several times a week. So it's my husbands turn at night to sit down before bed and read the boys stories. It's a great arrangement for us. I think anyway for children to be exposed to reading is better than no exposure at all.

  2. Great points, Natasha, and I wholeheartedly agree with you. Sounds like you have a great arrangement. Your children are lucky!

  3. We take turns in our house. My kids are older, 10 and 8; we've read to them every day since they were newborns. When it was just picture books, we'd take turns, one night me, next night my husband. Now that we've moved on to longer books, we take turns reading, so it might be a couple of weeks where it's just one parent reading to them. During that time, on nights that the "main reader" can't read for some reason, the other parent will read poems or picture books at bedtime. Even though my husband works long hours and travels frequently, he values the together-time that bedtime reading provides.

  4. Anonymous--
    Thanks for sharing! It looks like you have established a wonderful routine, and your children are getting solid quality time with both you and your husband. Congratulations!

  5. This sparked some discussion between me and my husband. Because we homeschool, I read to the kids all day long. I also read their bedtime stories, with my husband taking a turn every now and then. Is this just habit? We're not sure, but we're pretty set in our ways at this point. It will take effort to change.

  6. Hi Sara,
    First off, it sounds like you're doing an excellent job with raising readers--kudos to you and your husband for giving them this special gift that they'll carry throughout their lives. I wish I had a clear cut answer as to how parents should divide up their reading responsibilities, but I don't think there is one. I honestly think that as long as kids are exposed to books and there are adults in their lives who are enthusiastic about reading, then that's really what they need. Of course the more they see everyone in the family reading, the more they'll be encouraged to read, but it sounds like you and your husband already do that even if you are the one who does it the most.