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London - One in three fathers sets a poor example to his children by never picking up a book to read, a study found this week.
The number of dads who are never seen reading a book has risen 30 percent in just two years as computers and other gadgets claim more of their attention.
In contrast, the number of mothers who never dip into a book has barely changed and remains at just one in seven.
The study, from the National Literacy Trust, found that children who are encouraged to read by their parents - and see them reading - achieve higher literacy levels at school.
Parental influence can have a “considerable impact” on children’s attainment at school, as well their enjoyment of reading, it was claimed.
Yet one in seven youngsters told researchers they had never been to a bookshop and a further seven percent “weren’t sure” if they had or not.
And 12 percent of children had never received a book as a Christmas or birthday present and another six percent couldn’t say either way.
For the study, the researchers analysed a survey of 21,000 youngsters aged eight to 16 undertaken last year and compared findings from similar studies in 2009 and 2005.
One of the “strongest trends” was the declining involvement of fathers in their children’s reading, they said.
Between 2005 and 2011, the proportion of youngsters who reported receiving no encouragement to read from their father increased from 29 percent to 34 percent, the study found
Over the same period, the numbers saying they never see their father read rose from a quarter to a third.
Yet fathers were said to be “important reading role models for their children”. Their reading habits can exert “a substantial influence on their children’s ability to read, their level of interest and their reading choices”, the study said.
Youngsters who struggle with reading were four times more likely than proficient readers to say they receive no encouragement to read from their father.
Some two-fifths of youngsters in this group say they never see their father reading, against just 33 percent overall.
“Young people encouraged by a family member are twice as likely to read outside of class every day as those who receive no encouragement,and those who see their parents read regularly also report more positive reading attitudes, increased reading frequency and enjoyment,” the study said.
“They are also considerably more likely to read above the expected level for their age than those who are not encouraged to read or who rarely see parents read.”
The researchers said there was little evidence to suggest fathers were spending less time with their children than in 2009 or 2005, which might have explained their declining influence on reading habits.
Time spent at work did not entirely explain it either. Unemployed fathers were more likely than those with jobs never to read to their children.
It was possible fathers were more likely to gravitate towards other “literacy activities” such as those involving technology but further research was needed, the study said.
It added: “Family support for literacy does not require a high level of academic ability or substantial financial resources - simple, everyday actions such as encouraging children to read, being seen reading and talking about reading can all contribute positively to young people’s reading attitudes and behaviours.”
TV presenter Richard Madeley, of ‘Richard and Judy’ fame, is backing the National Literacy Trust’s campaign to increase fathers’ involvement in reading.
“I started reading to my children when they were just babies, putting on the different voices and having fun with the stories. My kids have grown up to be big book fans and I think this was partly down to me enjoying books with them from an early age.” - Daily Mail