Turning the page to a better future

03 September 2019 | Midlands

Small Steps Big Change

How reading together helps dads bond with kids.

For dad James, reading stories to his young children is one of life’s great pleasures.

“It’s fantastic having those quality moments,” he says. “Even if it’s just ten minutes a day it really does make a huge difference and you can see my son is a little bit more affectionate each time and wants you to read and interact more.”

James was one of a number of dads who took part in a new scheme designed to show parents the benefits of reading with their children.

Fathers Reading Every Day - or FRED for short - was pitched primarily at dads, to help with bonding as well as to stimulate a love of reading in the children themselves.

“FRED is a four-week programme aimed at fathers, step-fathers, granddads, essentially male role models that are in children’s lives, with the aim of getting men to engage with their children,” explains Phil Evans, who until recently was a Dads Engagement Worker for Small Steps, Big Changes, who are leading the scheme across Nottingham.

Mark, a father of two young boys, says he has seen the benefit of reading together for his sons. “It helps with communication, they learn from you basically,” he says.

“Hopefully it shows them that it is good to read and I try and lead by example. I read the books, and they get very into it. So yes, I do like it.”

Phil says the time spent together is the most important thing. He adds: “There is some guidance as to how long you read with that child, and it is flexible and it needs to be. Some fathers are in the armed forces for example that can perhaps Skype if they can’t be there in person. That is the benefit of technology that you can still read to your child. It is the time that is spent that is important more than anything.”

As well as FRED, Small Steps Big Changes works with a number of partners to reach dads, pregnant women, mothers and families including grandparents to support parents with children up to the age of four to give them the best start in life.

Through its family mentors and volunteers and partners Small Steps Big Changes works with families and children to help them develop skills to support good nutrition, social and emotional development and ways to enhance children’s communication and language skills.

The programme focuses on children, parents and communities in Hyson Green and Arboretum, Aspley, Bulwell and St Ann’s, and commissions groups and activities including Family Mentors, ‘Story and Rhyme Time’ featuring songs, stories and opportunities to learn through play, and the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, which provides free monthly books to children up to their fifth birthday. They are also working with local parents and the National Literacy Trust to create 25 new voluntary Literacy Champions.

Since the start of the programme, Small Steps, Big Changes has engaged with 4,026 children and 3,850 children have received Dolly Parton imagination library books.

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