Generation Xbox: 'Alarming' drop in fathers helping children to read


An “alarming” drop in the number of fathers encouraging their children to read is revealed in new research published today.

The study by the National Literacy Trust shows one in three dads give no reading encouragement to their children to read at all - a 30 per cent increase over the past seven years. In addition, a similar number are never seen with a book in their hands.

Jonathan Douglas, chief executive of the NLT, described the trend as “alarming”, adding that fathers were too seduced by “the x-box in the corner which gives you 15 TV channels at the flick of a switch” and new forms of technology.

“They want to do something that their children enjoy,” he added, “but children’s literature is extremely good and inventive, too.”

The number of dads never seen reading (32,9 per cent) is more than twice as high as mums (14.9 per cent) and experts believe this could jeopardise children’s chances of learning to become fluent readers. Those whose parents encouraged them to read had higher literacy standards.

“It’s old fashioned to think that encouraging reading is just down to mothers,” Mr Douglas added.  “Children learn behaviours from both parents and boys in particular benefit from male role models.”

The study, based on interviews with 21,000 eight to 16-year-olds, showed that the percentage of dads never seen reading with their children has grown steadily from 25.4 per cent in 2005 to 32.9 per cent in the latest survey.  The percentage of mums not reading has also increased slightly from 13.8 per cent to 14.9 per cent.

A breakdown showed  white fathers were less likely to read to their children than those from black, Asian or mixed backgrounds. Mr Douglas said that tallied with reports from schools that white working class children were the source of most concern about writing and reading standards.

In addition, boys were more likely than girls to say their father never read to them.

The report concludes: “Children who are encouraged to read by their parents are achieving higher reading levels at school and those who see their parents reading think more positively about reading than those who don’t.

“Fathers are important reading role models for their children and their reading habits can have a substantial influence on their children’s ability to read.”