mom and dad reading to kid

Snuggling up with my daughter and reading a book together is one of my favorite things. When she was a baby and I was so exhausted I could barely stay awake at her bedtime, I would often recite her favorite board books with my eyes closed, turning the page for her to look at the pictures at just the right time. No matter how tired I was, I wouldn't have wanted to skip that portion of our nightly routine. My husband and I did take turns with bedtime duties, though, and I wouldn't have wanted to deprive him of those moments either. Plus, as she's gotten older, he and I enjoy reading different types of books with her. He tends to choose adventure stories like Journey to the Center of the Earth, while I opt for The Secret Garden. In this way, she gets a different diet of books and also hears that there are different ways to read, as my style differs from his.

According to a recent survey in the United Kingdom, conducted in partnership with the U.K. literacy organization Book Trust, moms are 50 percent more likely than fathers to read to their babies. The poll found that 42 percent of mothers read with babies under age one, while only 29 percent of fathers did. By the time kids are three, 71 percent of mothers are reading to them, but only 62 percent of fathers. At age five, the gap has grown to 75 percent of mothers and 60 percent of fathers.

On the one hand I find this surprising, but on the other hand I don't. The significant portion of fathers are reading to their kids, so that's great news. The fact that more moms than dads are ... eh? I think that's in line with the fact that there are still more stay-at-home moms than stay-at-home dads, and mothers tend to be the primary caretakers even when both parents work. My husband is an incredibly hands-on dad, and though I've never kept a tally, I probably have read more with our daughter than he has.

Reading to and with our kids has significant benefits, of course. Kids learn new vocabulary, and it improves school readiness and helps them learn to sit still and be patient. Even just a few minutes a day can make a difference, so maybe moms and dads should tag-team on this a bit more than they are. Or read together as a family, taking turns reading a page each while passing the book around. And don't forget to read non-fiction and poetry as well as fiction—there are great options for kids in all categories. Happy reading!

Ellen Sturm Niz is a New York City-based editor and writer who is inspired to head to the local library. Follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.

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