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Give dad a better goal for reading

Fathers should be encouraged to read sports magazines with their children, and any other material they find interesting, the conference heard. A study of fathers in the United States shows that dads who choose reading material they enjoy themselves will spend twice as long reading to their children.

Robert Ortiz, associate professor in the department of special education at California State University, runs courses to help men develop the confidence and techniques to assist their children with reading and writing.

The courses cover areas such as storytelling, technology and writing. They also suggest how to use cookery books, billboards and even food labels to interest children in reading and spelling.

Professor Ortiz said it was important for fathers to identify their "literacy comfort zone". In one study, he calculated how much time fathers spent reading to their children with books suggested by the child's school compared with materials they chose themselves. He found that the men spent an average of 15 minutes when using school texts, but almost half an hour if they chose the books or articles themselves.

"Fathers like to read things they have a personal interest in, such as Sports Illustrated or golf magazines," he said. "There is nothing wrong with that. The point is you are reading to your child."

Professor Ortiz said that not only did men who read to their children develop a stronger bond with them than those who did not, but their children also tended to do better at school. "When fathers get involved, kids' grades go up," he commented.

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