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Mothers read to their children significantly more than fathers - despite the number of stay-at-home fathers in Britain doubling over the last decade.
An Ipsos MORI poll on parents' daily reading habits released this week by Book Trust, Britain's largest reading charity, found that almost 50 per cent more mothers read with their child at 0-11 months than fathers, and a quarter more mothers read with their five-year-old compared with fathers.
Another revealing statistic from the research shows that only 25 per cent of fathers between the ages of 15 and 24 read to their child every day compared to 61 per cent of mothers of the same age.
The findings were released to mark the start of National Bookstart Week (8-14 June), the charity's annual celebration of their early years reading programme, Bookstart, a book-gifting programme that enables and encourages families to start reading with their children early.
Diana Gerald, Book Trust chief executive, said: “It is alarming to see that fathers are still behind mothers when it comes to reading with their children. Now more than ever we need both parents to step up and make time to read with their children because one in five leaves primary school unable to read well.
"We are urging not only fathers but all parents, grandparents and carers to make a promise this National Bookstart Week - to read to their children for at least ten minutes every day and make some wonderful memories they will never forget."
Dad-of-one and founder of The Dad Network, Al Ferguson said: ”Reading to your baby is arguably as important as your baby's feeding and sleeping. Even before your baby is born, reading to your baby in the womb makes a lot of sense. They get used to your voice way before they grace us with their presence.
“In essence, reading to your baby is exactly the same as speaking to your baby. Babies need to be surrounded by words and books are the best way to do this. It helps avoid feeling like a wally too!”
Book Trust encourages families to read with children early and often as it helps develop their language skills. Even newborn babies are able to remember the tune and sounds from rhymes and songs, which provide the building blocks for reading in later life.
Ms Gerald said: “Reading with your child is fun, and a great way to spend time together. Sharing books with your child helps open their eyes, minds and hearts to different people and situations. Reading together increases children's literacy skills, but research also proves that children who love reading do better at school in all subjects.
“If a parent reads to their children every day they will be almost 12 months ahead of their age group when they start school. Even reading to them three to five times a week gives them a six-month headstart over those who are read to less often.”
During National Bookstart Week, Book Trust will be giving out 450,000 special editions of Giles Andreae's Rumble in the Jungle book to families across the country through libraries and children's centres, with guidance and advice on how to read with children and engage them in books.
Thousands of free events around the country are also planned for babies, toddlers, pre-schoolers and their families are being held at libraries, children's centres, nurseries and bookshops during the week. Events include stories, rhymes and lots of fun activities to inspire families to read together.
Book Trust's flagship reading programme, Bookstart, supports parents and carers to enjoy books with their child from as early as possible with the gift of free books to children in the first year of their life and again when they are 3-4 years old. Book Trust is also a founding member of the Read On. Get On. campaign to get every child in the UK reading well by the age of 11.