I have a father who reads to me : implications for early language and literacy development
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Reading aloud to very young children has been described as one of the “most important activities for developing the knowledge required for eventual success in reading” (Bus, van IJzendoorn, & Pelligrini, 1995, p. 19), and it is equally as strong as phonemic awareness as a predictor of reading achievement (Bus et al.). In the dialogue around reading aloud to children, mothers are routinely envisioned as the actors. Indeed, much of the research on families and reading aloud centers on the mother’s role in this process (e.g., Ninio & Bruner, 1978; Phillips & McNaughton, 1990; Reese, Cox, Harte, & McAnally, 2003). Despite a gap in research around fathers’ roles in influencing their children’s general development (Cabrera, Shannon, & Tamis-LeMonda, 2007), some theorists indicate that fathers can play an important role in their linguistic, cognitive, and emotional development (Gadsden, Brooks, & Jackson, 1997; Nord, Brimhall, & West, 1997). An understanding of what fathers contribute to read alouds with texts written in English in general and an examination of how those contributions vary from father to father may enable teachers to recognize and address differences that exist in children’s pre-school experiences and how those differences may be manifested in classrooms. This, then, may prove beneficial to educators who work with families encompassing a variety of demographic and structural characteristics in their efforts to support literacy acquisition. The input provided by fathers in this study varies over a wide spectrum in terms of frequency and style; similarly, the invitations to think abstractly vary across multiple levels. In addition, the familiarity of the book being shared, both in terms of language and content, appears to exert a strong influence on the number of interactions and the invitations to think abstractly during read alouds. The implications of these findings suggest that we should challenge our assumptions regarding the economic and situational factors that result in the labeling of children as academically “at risk.” I outline actions for consideration by parents, educators, and stakeholders who are working with young children and their families to promote language and literacy development.