What if I told you that when dads read bedtime stories it gives greater benefit to children’s cognitive development than listening to mum.
It seems crazy right? But it’s true.
Elisabeth Duursma is a senior lecturer in Early Childhood Literacy at the University of Wollongong. In research published at Harvard University in 2014, she explored the impact of dads reading to their kids.
“We found that fathers used more abstract and complex language. When sharing a book with their child, they would often link events in the book to a child’s own experience.
“For example, when a ladder was discussed in the book, many fathers mentioned the last time they had used a ladder to climb up on the roof or use it for their work. Mothers focused more on the details in the book and often asked children to label or count objects or identify colours.”
When I was young, my dad was a primary school teacher who specialised in early reading. He definitely read books to us and would also make up serialised stories on the spot. There was one about a magic mouse that would take us on adventures.
As a kid, I’d borrow books from the school library and read every night while listening to music on the radio. Everything I just said sounds like I grew up in the 1950s but it was the ’90s. Certain books are still coloured by their soundtrack. The Neverending Story still reminds me of Cream: Greatest Hits.
Anyways, Roald Dahl was my favourite author and when my son was only one, we bought a brilliant box set of all his books for $60.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is by far our son’s favourite. We’ve read it about four times. All while I’m reading he’ll be asking questions or positing his own ideas, creatively building on the story.
I’ve read him a few others, including Danny The Champion Of The World, James and the Giant Peach, Fantastic Mr Fox, The BFG, George’s Marvellous Medicine and The Giraffe and The Pelly and Me, and Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator.
It’s the ultimate way to get him to sleep. About a chapter or so of Wonka and he’s drifting off, his brain engaged by language, narrative and magic.
I worked in a book shop for a year after high school. Whenever customers would come in seeking children’s books, unsure of what they were looking for, I’d guide them straight to Roald Dahl.
He’s still the master. It’s been fun revisiting the books.