GREAT dads do a lot more than just provide for their children - and some of the extra effort needed to be great can be as simple as reading a book.
Just one in eight dads takes the lead with reading to their children, despite studies showing a father's involvement in a child's early reading boosts academic success and leads to improved social and emotional wellbeing.
The huge benefits of dads reading with their children is what's behind Fathers' Story Week (June 10-16). Leading up to Father's Day (June 16), the week aims to get schools, nurseries and libraries to organise events which will get more dads reading with their kids, using specially-created lesson plans and activity ideas.
Jeremy Davies of the Fatherhood Institute, which organises Fathers' Story Week, says the aim of the week isn't just academic, it's also to celebrate fathers and their importance.
"The focus is on reading and fathers supporting their children's learning," he says, "but more broadly than that, it's about spending time with your children and showing an interest in what they're doing.
"A lot of people don't understand that men aren't just an optional extra in children's lives - they do have a serious influence on children both in terms of their education and more generally."
As well as encouraging the mentioned school, nursery and library events, Fathers' Story Week is also inviting everyone involved in the week to sign up for a four-week supported reading programme Fathers Reading Every Day (FRED).
The programme, which began in the US, sets reading targets for dads with their kids - 15 minutes a day for the first two weeks, and then 30 minutes a day for the next two weeks. Dads and kids record their reading in a log book.
FRED in the US has been shown to improve children's reading accuracy, comprehension and reading rate, writing; and behaviour. It can also improve attainment in maths.
"In America FRED has had a really positive impact on the amount fathers read with their children," says Davies, "because it gives reading some structure and children will remind their dads if they haven't done their reading that day."
Research by the Booktrust, a reading and writing charity, earlier this year found that a quarter of fathers blame working late for not reading with their children, but Jeremy points out: "FRED gets reading with children into fathers' heads - it's often not the case that they're not interested in their children's education, but they've had a busy day, they get home from work late and before they know it, it's their child's bedtime and they've missed the opportunity to read with them.
"It's about getting into the habit, and giving reading with your children as often as you can the priority it deserves."
He points out that the programme will work just as well for busy mums too, adding: "That special time cuddled up reading with somebody who loves you is so beneficial, partly intellectually but also emotionally because it gives children a strong sense of security. …