It’s so cute I don’t dare interrupt, so I stand in the doorway of my son’s room watching while his dad reads his favorite story—a book from his own childhood—and acts out the parts. “Cover your eyes,” my husband says in his first language, French. Our cheeky toddler son covers his ears instead and they both laugh and turn the page.
These little father-son story sessions benefit the whole family.
I already knew they gave me a bit of a parenting break before bedtime and helped instill a love of reading in our little boy. It turns out they’re also making my husband a better dad. (Not that he needed improvement. )
According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, fathers who engage with their children through shared book reading see a boost in their own parenting skills while also raising their preschooler’s school readiness and behavior.
A better behaved kiddo and a more engaged parent? What’s not to love?
The study evaluated 126 New York City dads who joined a program called Fathers Supporting Success in Preschoolers, which encouraged shared reading or—more simply put—story time with dad.
Most of the families spoke Spanish and were randomly assigned to either participate in the program or go on a waitlist (the control group). According to the researchers, parenting behaviors, child behaviors and language development of the pairs improved significantly compared to those who were wait-listed.
The simple act of sharing a book made a big difference for the dads: According to a release by New York University, they made fewer critical statements to their preschoolers and amped up positive parenting techniques like praise and affection after telling stories. On top of that, these improved discipline techniques promote better psychological growth for the kids, according to researchers.
I don’t have to look far to see the positive benefits of father-son story time in my house. Our toddler looks forward to bonding with his father over their special French books—which I cannot read at all despite my taking French in high school and college—and my husband is a better dad because of it. Now, if only he could teach our son the difference between eyes and ears, I would really be impressed.
[This piece was originally published on August 24, 2017]