1 Oct 2009

More than eight out of ten of Britain’s fathers (89%) believe it is important for both parents to read bedtime stories with their children regularly, according to a new survey by The Children’s Society.

But when it comes to actually picking up a book it seems mums have the edge – and dads need some extra encouragement to take part in storytime. According to the survey for The Children’s Society’s National Bedtime Reading Month 50% of fathers say they read their children a bedtime story every night, compared to 7 out of 10 mums.

The survey suggests that many household tasks are not evenly shared out between the sexes, and bedtime reading is one of them. Some 74% of mothers said they alone washed the clothes, 61% said they alone did the cooking, 49% said they alone did the cleaning and 27% said they alone read to the children.

The results, in a poll of 1,001 adults compiled by NfP Synergy, show that 31% of dads prefer to play with their children than read to them. Yet dads admit they do have time to devote their attention to their offspring, with only 14 per cent of fathers claiming they get home too late from work or are too busy to read.

Reading expert Angela Cohen of Ready To Learn said she understood that some men were shy about performing in front of their children. But she said it was important to encourage more fathers to read, especially because boys lag behind girls in reading skills at the end of primary school (1). ‘’It is especially vital that boys that they see men in their families enjoying books so they don’t think reading is just for girls,’’ she added.

The Children’s Society’s National Bedtime Reading campaign is aimed at encouraging dads to read with their children. Four celebrity fathers have lent their support by recording a video of themselves reading a bedtime story - Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox – in an attempt to encourage more of the nation’s fathers to get stuck in to story time with their children.

Blur frontman Damon Albarn, Jade Goody’s ex-partner Jeff Brazier, Sky TV Breakfast Show presenter Eamonn Holmes and the star of the hit West End Show ‘’Hairspray,’’ Brian Conley, will appear on The Children’s Society’s YouTube Channel http://www.youtube.com/user/childrenssociety from 1 October.

All of Britain’s fathers can join them. They can video themselves using an ordinary digital camera, webcam or phone reading a bedtime story for our ‘’Fantastic Fathers’’ competition and uploading it to the same site. The video voted the best by our panel of judges will receive a day trip for four to the Roald Dahl museum in Great Missenden courtesy of 20th Century Fox.

Bob Reitemeier, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society, comments: ‘While some dads are reading with their children, it is clear from the evidence that we need even more dads to get involved. Evidence supplied to The Children’s Society’s Good Childhood Inquiry by 34,000 children, parents and experts showed that reading a story at bedtime to your children is one of the best ways of spending time together, developing relationships with them and giving them the best start to their education.’’

Notes to Editors:

1. 87% of girls reached the required standard of reading at the end of primary school, compared with 81% of boys. (DCSF: National Curriculum Assessments at Key Stage 1 in England, 2008.)

2. Bedtime reading Month is being launched in association with the launch of 20th Century Fox’s new animated movie, Fantastic Mr Fox on October on October 23. Directed by Wes Anderson and starring Meryl Streep, George Clooney, Bill Murray it tells the story of angry farmers, tired of sharing their chickens with a sly fox, and look to get rid of their opponent and his family.

3. For more information or to arrange interviews please contact: The Children’s Society’s Media Team, Tel: 020 7841 4422 Email: ple@childsoc.org.uk, mobile: 0784 132 3178.

4. The Children’s Society is a leading children’s charity committed to making childhood better for all children in the UK; http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk.