Apparently only one in eight men are the main reader to their children according to a survey by Booktrust (a great organisation dedicated to getting people to read) so they have started a campaign to try and get men reading to their children more.
I think that the ability to read for enjoyment is one of the most important life skills that can be passed on, and anything that encourages this is a great initiative. However I think that making it a gender issue is not necessarily the right way to go about it and takes the focus off the real problem which is that some parents don’t read with children full stop.
Apparently people site a lack of time as a key reason people don’t read but I bet all those parents find time to check their emails every five minutes and update their social media status. My Mum would have been the one to read to us, mainly because as soon as we moved on from Jack and Jill frankly Dad would just have been slowing us down. We were lucky, Mum read with us, Dad built rabbit hutches and took us swimming and every night at 5.10 on the dot we all sat down for tea and pretended to have a conversation whilst secretly just trying to watch Grange Hill.
When me and my sister were young, computers were not common place and we had to make our own entertainment. We only had tv in very short bursts (as according to my mother the tv would blow up if it was left on for longer than 30 minutes) and shock horror there was only 4 channels. Kids nowadays have more distractions than ever and the idea of sitting down and reading is an alien concept. Equally if they don’t see their parents sit down and read for enjoyment, they will sadly never do it themselves. The problem with making it a gender issue is that Dad’s will feel forced to do something that they might not actually enjoy, and therefore that pressure is going to be passed onto the children. Who remembers the BT commercial with the Dad who passed the phone straight to the Mum when the kid rang? That commercial is solely responsible for hundreds of hours of conversations about the weather and latest council tax bills as Dads are forced into keeping children talking until a suitable length of time has passed (as dictated by Maureen Lipman) and they can pass the phone on.
The same thing will happen with reading, Men will force themselves to read two pages of Harry Potter and kids will grow up believing that reading is a chore rather than a pleasure. I was in a primary school yesterday listening to kids read and was amazed not only by the range of abilities but also by the enthusiasm they all had for reading to me. Reading is one of the best, cheapest and fun hobbies there is, and we should all be encouraging children to enjoy it, not just men!