Ok it is an obvious question. But it runs deeper than what you’re thinking. I just attended an amazing conference on family engagement in Chicago hosted by the Institute for Educational Leadership and there was a session on the difference that fathers can make - the results are actually a significant improvement in educational outcomes.
Not only is it important for parents to read to their children, but it makes a difference that the fathers read to their children because they read differently and affect kids’ brain development differently. Moms tend to use singsong lilting voices, but dads will act out the characters. Imagine a mom sing-songing, “and the wolf said “and I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house down”. Well, the dads say that differently with a booming wolfy voice, and that has a different affect on children’s brains. .
In fact, Michael Hall, M.Ed., who ran the Strong Fathers workshop, knows from experience that involving fathers makes a difference. Since 2003, he has worked with over 156,000 dads in 36 states. He has found a number of things:
- In order to get the fathers to attend, Hall has the kids invite them. He has seen divorced fathers who have never been to their child’s town of residence travel from as far as Alaska. It is all about the kids.
- The number one reason for incarceration is drugs. Most sentences end in 18-24 months, so fathers who are incarcerated will be able to attend sessions some time during their child’s school career. There was an anecdote about law enforcement officers and arrestees at the same session. The arrested dad was hoping not to be noticed by the law enforcement dad, but as they were there for and with their kids, it was a level playing field.
- First of all, you do not need to feed them, contrary to popular to belief. It does not, in fact, affect attendance. What you do have to do is make it interactive. He does not overwhelm parents, and offers four sessions a year:
- Bring Dad to School Day: Dads follow their child wherever the child is in his/her schedule during that time. If the dad has more than one child, he has to divide his time to see his kids.
- Math Night: They do basic math with games that they can take home and do together repeatedly. They make it doable and fun.
- Science Night: Simple and basic but fun and exciting science experiments that are safe but dramatic and exciting that again, can be done at home inexpensively with easy to access supplies.
- Reading Night: Here, the kids read to the dads because often the dads can’t read, including the majority of incarcerated men.
- He makes sure the hours are convenient because many must work- he chooses 7:30-9:30 AM then if they’re finished early all are happy.
Barriers: Why dads wouldn’t come:
- Bad personal experiences in school, bad memories.
- Expect to be spoken to negatively by the school.
Why they do come: Because the invitation comes from their child – no one cares about kids more than their parents do. Parents are the experts on their kids and are their first and last teachers. They do the best they can with what they have.