Research reveals dads' critical role in children's early literacy development

Research has revealed that dads play an especially unique role in their child’s early literacy development.

More than 1 million new connections are formed in your child’s brain every second during their first few years of life. Sharing stories, singing, talking and playing with your child from birth builds a foundation for their future development.

Parents and caregivers play a critical role in this development. However, a study from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) found fathers who read to their children can have a unique impact on their child’s language development and early literacy skills.

It has also been revealed dads who read to their children can help develop their child’s language.  The study found children whose dads read to them at age two had predicted better language development at age four.

How dads read to their children is important

The study suggests it may not be the act of reading that influences language and literacy outcomes. It says how that shared reading is done is also of critical importance.

Dr Jon Quach, senior research fellow at the MCRI and the study’s lead author, says this could be because parents in the same household are reading the same books. However, the different ways in which each person reads to the child has further helped the child’s language development.

Sunshine Coast Council’s Young People’s Services supervisor, Karen Gawen, agrees. She says adults tend to read books differently. They might emphasise difference parts of the story or pronounce things differently or focus on different words.

“All these differences help broaden a child’s understanding of the many diverse ways we use language,” Gawen says.

Dr Quach says there is some research to suggest fathers are more likely to scaffold children’s reading.

“[This] means they divide the reading in to smaller sections to enable the child to better understand the sections,” Dr Quach says.

“It may not be as simple as getting parents to read more to their children, but rather ensuring the quality and frequency of reading is appropriate.”

Gawen adds that dads can be wonderful at silly voices, which do so much more than entertain.

“Dad’s silly voices can spark more imaginative discussions and bring to life the story in a completely different way than Mum’s reading might,” she says.

She adds dads play a critical role in their children’s literacy development by modelling reading, sharing stories. They help their children explore the world, engaging in meaningful conversations that build critical thinking skills.

Dad reading story with child

Early literacy resources at the library

Your local library is brimming with early literacy resources —o n the shelves, in the library’s weekly activities and via the library’s website.

Parent Files

A fabulous resource for parents from Sunshine Coast Libraries is Parent Files. You’ll find tips and tricks to support mums and dads, play ideas and literacy games.

First 5 Forever

An initiative from Queensland Government, First 5 Forever has activities, games, book recommendations and more to give children the best start in early literacy.

Rhymes with Ryan

What started off as a fun way for families to enjoy nursery rhymes during lockdown has gained fans world-wide. Rhymes with Ryan is perfect for those who can’t get to the library, the full collection is also available on YouTube to watch whenever you like.

The eLibrary

Movies, music, magazine, audiobooks — the Sunshine Coast Libraries eLibrary is bursting with resources to read, sing and play with your child. All free with your library card.

Rhymetime & Storytime

Rhymetime is a gentle and fun session held at the library that helps your baby develop pre-literacy and language skills through songs and stories.

Storytime is for toddlers and pre-schoolers to help them discover the magical world of books and reading.

Both sessions are held weekly at your local library.


You may also like…

Early literacy games – anytime and anywhere
How creative play can improve your child’s early literacy
Early Literacy: What is it, and what do I do?