Keen-to-read dada get keen-to-read kids

Fathers are important role models for their sons. But, research shows that men’s reading habits are in decline. If fathers were only made aware how important they are for the development of their children’s reading and linguistic abilities, they would most certainly assume responsibility for it. This was how the editors at the publishing firm, A Book for All, reasoned and subsequently initiated the project Read me a story, Dad!

A Book for All is a government-promoted enterprise, initiated in 1976 with the aim to publish quality literature, fiction for children, young people and adults, at competitive prices. The books are sold through bookstores and a well-organised representational activity. Parallel to their publishing role, A Book for All also promotes reading activities, such as Read me a story, Dad!

Meetings intended to inspire reading habits and arranged by ABF (Workers Educational Association) and LO (Swedish Trade Union Confederation), have been offered fathers from ten districts. These meetings are arranged so that fathers can attend during working hours and for which they are reimbursed. The meetings are seen as educational visits to a library for the purpose of meeting an author and a literary pedagogue. The participating fathers get to learn more about their children’s linguistic development and what books are suitable for certain age groups. When they leave they do so with a selection of children’s books from the A Book for All range, as well as a book for themselves. Gunnar Klaesson at A Book for All says that the most bothersome task is motivating and convincing the local union representatives to organise seminars on reading. They ask themselves whether their unions should be involved in such activities. “The most enjoyable aspect is seeing those who initially were sceptic become the most positive!”

Participating fathers have been asked to fill in a questionnaire after the meetings and it shows an increased reading rate, not only for themselves but also for their children. Only 4% say they have not read their children any books following the meetings. This can be compared with current official statistics where 38% of male members of LO admit to not having read one single book during the past year.

Activities surrounding the Read me a story, Dad! initiative have had other consequences. According to the questionnaires a large number of the participating fathers have not taken part in any other union activities. In a number of places there have been follow-ups where fathers and their children meet and do something together.

Translated by Jonathan Pearman

Library adviser, Swedish National Council for Cultural Affairs.