Some 70 per cent of fathers who live with their children want to be more involved in their education, according to the Fatherhood Institute. Other research links high levels of interest from fathers with better results and more enjoyment from education, while low interest has a stronger negative impact on their achievement than contact with the police, poverty, social class, housing tenure and the child's personality. The thinktank runs a variety of courses for early years settings and schools, including the Father's Reading Every Day (FRED) course.
The basic aim of FRED is to start fathers reading 15 minutes a day for two weeks with their children - then 30 minutes a day for a second two weeks. The course was developed in the US and has been shown to improve the accuracy, understanding and speed of reading and writing.
Charles Padie, of Maytree Children's Centre in Lambeth, attended the course and has incorporated the principles into a two-hour stay and play session one Saturday a month. The team leads reading in the setting and lends books to take home, encouraging dads to take ownership of reading and giving parents confidence that they can help their child learn.
Mr Padie says, 'Fathers can be at home but be absent as well because they are not engaging with the child. Reading at least 15 minutes a day is also about sharing something, getting children to become independent and do their own research.
'A dad told us, "I didn't know that my contribution was worthwhile for my child." Another said, "This has helped me identify the need to help my child and strengthened the bond between us."'
The course, taken as a group session with discussion, handouts and slides, presents research on the impact of the attention of dads and asks the group to define what being a dad means. It covers topics such as the benefits of involving fathers in learning, the personal/cultural issues which shape perceptions, and developing systematic engagement with fathers/father figures.