Friday, June 22, 2007

Dad's Role in Promoting Literacy

Janine Cate from "Why Homeschool" had a great Father's Day themed post last week called "Father's impact on education". In it, she discusses some of the research findings on fathers' influence over their children's education. She also reminiscences about how her DH Henry used to read to their now-teenaged daughter as a baby.
"She could just barely sit up and drooled like crazy. She would just beam up at Henry as he read to her. This is the daughter who was reading 60 chapter books a month when she was ten. Now that our daughter is almost 13, Henry has moved on from reading Cat in the Hat for our daughter to discussing books like John Adams with our daughter."
That reminds me of my DH and DD. He started reading to her pretty much the moment we brought her home from the hospital (she was 2 weeks old in the below picture).
She's now 4 3/4 and the two of them have a Saturday morning ritual where he reads her selected articles from the Economist magazine and then explains them to her. Not the type of read-aloud I would think to do with her, but I'm certain she benefits from experiencing two different perspectives on reading.

I recently came across an interesting research paper by Richard Fletcher and Kerry Dally of the University of Newcastle in Australia entitled "Fathers' Involvement in Their Children's Literacy Development". In it, the researchers discuss the barriers to getting fathers involved with family literacy activities. One of the biggest is a perception that reading is a "feminine" thing:
"In their survey of school-family literacy programmes Cairney et al. (1995) reported that the participation of parents in the programmes was strongly gender based, with mothers representing the majority of participants. Not only were the family members more likely to be mothers than fathers but also virtually all of the school personnel who participated in the programmes were women. According to Cairney et al. (1995, p.36) 'Programmes were largely initiated, planned, run and coordinated by women for women'. The problem with the disproportionate number of women involved in school-parent literacy programmes is that such initiatives may inadvertently reinforce an already strongly established perception of literacy and learning as 'feminized' activities (Cairney et al., 1995). The following comment by one of the course presenters in Cairney et al.'s survey reveals that boys may be particularly disadvantaged by the gender imbalance in early literacy education and the perception that reading is 'women's work'. 'Children see reading as a feminine thing to do, because a female infants teacher teaches them, mum reads to them at home' (Cairney et al., 1995, Vol 2, p. 62)."
This can be one of the real advantages of homeschooling. While the mom is often the primary teacher, the dad is typically much more involved with the children's education than he would be in a traditional school. This was discussed in Dr. Michael Pakaluk's excellent article "Nine Reasons to Homeschool". Greater involvement by the father in education may help to explain why homeschooled students score so well on standardized tests of reading.

I feel so blessed to have a DH who enjoys reading and sharing his love of the written word with his children!


Candlestring said...

How do you think we can get the men more involved in church/parish life? Because if having the women run the reading programs "feminizes" them, what is it doing to our church to have so many women running everything? The only men in charge of anything in our large parish are the priests (2) and the bookkeeper and the maintenance man. Thank goodness we do have Knights, too, so they count.

Crimson Wife said...

That was actually one of the things Rod Dreher talked about when he converted from Catholicism to Eastern Orthodoxy- how the latter denomination does a much better job at balancing the masculine and feminine spiritual elements than the post-Vatican II Catholic Church has been.

My mom's family is Episcopalian, and that denomination has become extremely "feminized" in this country. Their membership has significantly declined since they began allowing female clergy. They have moved so far away from traditional gender roles that they are now at the point where there will likely be a schism between the American branch and the worldwide Anglican communion. It's a very sad situation and one that Catholics should view as a cautionary tale...