A regular reading habit makes for stronger father-child relationships --
Fathers play a pivotal role in the lives of their children. Having a supportive father is a gift to a child and sets him up on a successful life path. However, being an involved, responsible father is not always easy. It can be particularly difficult for men who did not grow up with a father in their own lives. And unfortunately, societal messages that raising children is women’s work still run deep. While it’s true that fathers today are more involved than in previous generations, men still face barriers to responsible fatherhood at all levels of society. These barriers can become overwhelming when you factor in unemployment, low education, poor health, legal battles, incarceration, and the like. The father role is just too important for the well-being of children to not invest in helping these men become the best fathers they can be.
Father to Father helps fathers and their families in the LowcountryOne such organization in the Charleston area is doing just that. Father to Fathers’ mission is to help fathers in the Lowcountry be a positive and consistent presence in their children’s lives. Working under the umbrella of the South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families, they have served more than 1,500 fathers, children, and families for over 20 years.
Father to Father programs help men to engage more fully with their children and families. Core areas include adult education, job training skills and employment, as well as managing money and establishing healthy habits. They provide guidance navigating child support, custody battles, and other legal challenges. A key focus is on building healthy relationships through communication, counseling, and parenting workshops. Fathers become more engaged if they feel confident and valued.
Father to Father prides itself on being a resource for local organizations within the community. It is also able to enrich its own programs through collaboration with supporting partners. These partnerships come from regional businesses, law firms, courts, police departments, as well as the health, education, and social services sector. Partners include organizations and resources for their children and families as well -- Head Start, First Steps, Charleston County School District, for example.
Fathers reading to children strengthens bondsEstablishing a regular reading habit by cuddling up with a book is one of the best ways to strengthen the father-child bond. The benefits go well beyond early literacy for the child. It’s a wonderful way to provide a safe haven and to develop a secure and loving presence as a father. Father to Father and BEGIN WITH BOOKS, the Charleston affiliate of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library (DPIL), ensure that the children of the families served are enrolled to receive free age-appropriate, quality children’s books in the mail every month. They are also developing their own library of DPIL titles to use as practice books with fathers to get them more comfortable with the idea of reading to their children. BEGIN WITH BOOKS plans to keep this library robust through their Little Library book drop-off initiative.
Creating reading role models
Most fathers in Father to Father programs don’t know where, or how, to start reading to their children. Very often their own fathers weren’t in the picture or did not read to them. Most grew up without books in the home so quite likely do not have memories of being read to themselves. If they did poorly in school, they quite possibly have negative associations with reading and school in general. Getting fathers to value books and feel confident reading to their children is one of Father to Father’s goals. Story time is a chance to share a part of themselves with their child and introduce a father’s unique perspective on the world. They don’t need to be good readers to make a difference. They can use whatever language they feel most comfortable speaking. Children’s books use simple language and the pictures are wonderful springboards for asking questions, starting conversations, and sharing stories.
The right books reflect positive fathering
The Imagination Library strives to have fathers represented as positive role models. These marvelous selections below show fathers and other male figures – grandfathers, stepfathers, and animal daddies, too – in warm, loving relationships, providing comfort and guidance, and sharing in special activities.
- Max and the Tag Along Moon, Floyd Cooper
- The Ring Bearer, Floyd Cooper
- Owl Moon, Jane Yolen, Illus. John Schoenherr
- You are My I Love You, Maryann K. Cusimano and Satomi Ichikawa
- Giggles with Daddy, Emily Sollinger
- Little Loon and Papa, Toni Buzzeo, Illus. Margaret Spengler
- I Love my Daddy Because (Bilingual), Laurel Porter-Gaylord, Illus. Ashley Wolff
- My Papi has a Motorcycle, Isabel Quintero, Illus. by Zeke Pena
- Hair Love, Matthew A. Cherry, Illus. Vashti Harrison
- A Father’s Love, Hannah Holt, Illus. Yee Von Chan
- This Beach is Loud, Samantha Cotterill
- Lily’s Cat Mask, Julie Fortenberry
- Following Papa’s Song, Gianna Marino
- Old Bear and his Cub, Olivier Dunrea
-- Caron Bell, PhD, Early Childhood Development, and beginwithbooks.org volunteer