Mom of two and blogger for the Nalâ??ibali reading-for-enjoyment campaign Nonikwe Mashologu shares her secrets for getting dads involved in reading time.

In my family, as Iâ??m sure is the case with many families, my husband tends to come home rather late in the evenings after work. He arrives just in time to spend about an hour or so with the kids before bedtime. This means weâ??ve had to get rather creative with this short yet special time they have together.

Picture it: Dad walks into the house, the kids are thrilled to have him home; they want to share everything about their day with him; they want to play games with him. But, after a long day, when everyoneâ??s tired, weâ??ve found that story time with dad helps to do the trick. Itâ??s also one of the best ways to get kids to bond with him: to cuddle and connect over a good book.

Dad, tell me a story

As John McCormick â?? US author of Dad, Tell Me A Story, How to Revive the Tradition of Storytelling with Your Children â?? has noted: â??research shows kids whose dads sing, tell stories, read, and play with them show higher educational achievement and improved learning development. And, fathers who get more involved with their kids in activities such as reading and storytelling, build strong relationships with their children and other members of the family.â?

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And while it may not always be possible for dad, or any caregiver, to read a story every single night, itâ??s important to remember that consistency is key. You and dad can alternate, or pick specific reading nights every week â?? whether itâ??s one chapter or a short story. Approaching this time as a weekly or nightly treat will get your children to slowly start building a positive, nurturing connection with books.

The daddy library

Another tradition weâ??ve started, is to build a special â??daddy libraryâ??. If dad travels a lot, a great way to grow family literacy is for him to bring back books (or even magazines) as gifts from the various places to which he travels. This way, the children look forward to story time with dad on his return, whilst also being able to hear about the places heâ??s visited. And when the kids miss daddy during longer trips, we pull out a book from our special â??daddy libraryâ?? to read until he returns with the next new read.

And when picking these books, remember that reading books is one of the best ways to find out more about your children and what interests them.

Three important questions to ask yourselves before choosing stories:

  • What books excite them?

  • What kind of stories do they enjoy talking about?

  • What kind of questions do they ask about books or characters?

You and your partner can fully support your childâ??s passions and interests by starting a conversation with them. Whether the books are about sports, nature or resplendent fairytales, you and dad will be able to explore your childâ??s mind by simply setting some reading time with them. Itâ??s as simple as walking into your local library, or picking up a Dr. Seuss from the book store on the way home.

Alternatively, the Nalâ??ibali national reading-for-enjoyment campaign offers free childrenâ??s stories in a range of SA languages. These can be accessed on the Nalâ??ibali website, www.nalibali.org, and mobi site, www.nalibali.mobi.

Happy reading!