Push to bring fathers and sons together through literacy

Posted at 3:50 PM, Sep 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-02 18:39:58-04

CLEVELAND, Ohio — All this week, you’ve had a chance to join our "If You Give A Child A Book" campaign.

Through the generosity of the Scripps Howard Fund, News 5 employees and our community, we're able to purchase new books for children living in low-income neighborhoods.

You can help by giving what you can here on our website or by texting WEWS to 50155.

As those donations come in, we wanted to look at the potentially life-changing power growing home libraries can have, especially when dads are involved with their sons.

For Christopher Kelly and his 4-year-old son, Messiah, sharing moments with their noses in a book is just part of their daily routine.

"He's a learner. He's curious. Reading to him is fun to me," said Kelly.

When fathers like Kelly read to their sons, one study shows the impact is different.

"They set the tone for the love of reading. Fathers play a very important role when it comes to literacy, especially with their sons," said Steven Rhodes, a father of two.

An Australian researcher found when moms read to their children they focus more on the events in the book, whereas dads tend to relate those events to their child's own experiences.

That different thinking during story time is said to be better for a child's brain because it's more challenging.

"We can't impress enough on fathers how important it is to spend time, sit down, and read," said Karla Martin, Starting Point.

Martin said children who have dads reading to them regularly are twice as likely to score higher in reading than their counterparts who don't.

"Our goal is to want to reach more fathers and make sure they hear this message," said Martin.

Martin added that if children are behind in reading in first grade, they're less likely to catch up by fourth.

"That's generally 90% of the children, they're not able to catch up," said Martin.

Steven Rhodes encourages those in his group 24-7 Dad, a weekly fatherhood program, to take an active role in their little learner's literacy.

"It's an inexpensive way to spend time with your kids. Trips to the libraries are free, making sure they have that library card is a connection to the community," said Rhodes.

Rhodes says harnessing the power of reading can also help dads arm their sons with knowledge that goes well beyond success in the classroom.

"It's a time for us to show the young men how to handle emotions, so you can pick out books that show men how to handle emotions, how to be a father and how to be an upright citizen as a male in the community," said Rhodes.

For Christopher Kelly, helping his son strengthen his literacy skills is also about his legacy as a father.

"When he goes out into the world, he can say you know what, my dad taught me this, my dad was there for me, my dad gave me knowledge of this and that," said Kelly.

The NBA, along with a number of partners including the Cuyahoga County Fatherhood Initiative have teamed-up to help dads in Northeast Ohio access books.

During the All-Star Game in Cleveland earlier this year, six little free libraries were set up outside several area schools, along with the Children's Museum of Cleveland.

Each one has a "Dadication" theme, a play on dedication, to emphasize the important role fathers play in children's literacy.

"When dads are involved in their children's lives, they're less likely to drop out of school, they're less likely to do drugs, they're less likely to become incarcerated. So, the research itself shows the impact of a father’s involvement," said Aldonis Grimes, Cuyahoga County Fatherhood Initiative.

Since All-Star Weekend, each location has been stocked with father-related stories.
The Little Free Library organization ships new titles every month.