The Free Library of Philadelphia celebrates reading all summer long. We also celebrate Father’s Day and fatherhood this Sunday. Yay Dad!
I’m sure you’ve heard by now that the Free Library hosts Summer Reading for children and teens, but our Summer Reading program is also for adults—adults like fathers, grandfathers, uncles, and big brothers. So we have a Summer Reading challenge for all the wonderful fathers and father-figures out there and that is to read with the children in your life!
Reading is still fundamental as it is the building block of all learning. It is simply imperative that you read with your children! You can carve out a dedicated time and place for reading like the classic bedtime story, or you can just do it anytime and anywhere life allows. Read at the start of the day before climbing out of bed, read on the bus, or read before or after dinner. The where and the when aren’t nearly as important as the reading itself.
Now that you understand it doesn't matter when and where you read, let’s get to what you are going to read. Guess what? It really doesn’t matter what you read! You can’t go wrong with children’s books. We have tons of them here at the library and we’d love to loan them to you and your family. But you can also invite your child to join you in reading other things. Try the newspaper, if that’s what you like to read. Before you strategically fold the paper for ease of handling, pull out a sheet and give it to your kid. It won’t matter that the child can’t understand the words or that they may have no interest in newspapers. What will matter is the chance to imitate Dad and be included in his activity.
Back in the olden days when I was a kid, my dad read electrical and heating manuals every day. They were huge, blue, hardcover volumes that were almost as big as I was. I couldn’t actually tote the books around but I could open them and flip through the pages, just like my dad. Did I learn anything about electricity or heating? Not a darn thing! What I did learn though was how to read, to love learning, and ultimately how to be a librarian. Hence my contention that fathers can use just about any kind of print materials to help develop a love of reading and learning in their children.
One last thing—maybe you’re not a good reader. Maybe you’ve always struggled with reading and think that you are not competent to read with a child. Well that’s where you’re wrong! You don’t have to be a scholar. You don’t have to be an avid reader. To your children, you are the expert on everything! They have no idea that you aren’t the absolute smartest man in the world. Why tell them? This is your chance to shine. Reading together is an ideal father-child bonding ritual. It builds intellect, builds trust, builds emotional capacity, and builds self-confidence in your child, and maybe in you too.
Grab a book, sit down with your kid, and go ahead and be the expert. Choose a simple book and master it. Simple might be better for your kid as well as for you. Memorize the book if you think that will help to ease your performance anxiety. Don’t worry that you’ve only mastered one or two books. Trust me, your child won’t mind. Children love and absolutely need repetition. Your child will never be the wiser, but you certainly will.
Fatherhood is an incredible calling and you rise to the challenges of it every day. Celebrate yourself! Celebrate your children! Celebrate Father’s Day by sharing a book with a child!