The Critical Role of Fathers in Education

Rev Stephen Brooks shares the positive impact children experience when their fathers play a role in their reading and educational development

A father’s presence and active involvement matter greatly in predicting their children’s educational outcomes. While motherly influence is often heralded in child development discussions, the biblical perspective highlights the significance of fathers – especially in promoting literacy. Consider this: in an average year, a child lives for 8,760 hours. Of these, approximately 2,900 hours are spent sleeping, 1,200 hours in school, and a substantial 4,640 hours under the conscious care of parents.

Let’s explore the evidence that highlights the impact of fatherly engagement, particularly in supporting literacy skills.

Proverbs 22:6 implores, ‘Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.’ As spiritual leaders of their households, fathers exemplify this principle when they actively engage in reading with their children. Just as God guides His children, earthly fathers guide their children on the path of literacy, modelling the joy and importance of reading through their own actions.

Fathers play a critical role in their children’s literacy development from an early age. By reading aloud, sharing stories, exploring the world together, and engaging in meaningful conversations, fathers build critical thinking skills in their children. Research consistently shows that parental involvement significantly affects educational outcomes. Recent attention has turned to the unique and specific impact of fathers and male caregivers – especially on the literacy skills of their children.

The Department for Education (DfE) conducted studies that reveal compelling insights:

  • Fathers who regularly engage with their three-year-olds contribute to improved academic performance by the age of five.
  • Continued father involvement at age five is linked to enhanced school scores at age seven.
  • Father involvement at age seven predicts higher educational attainment by age 20, benefiting both boys and girls.
  • Early father involvement protects boys against criminal behaviour later in life.
  • The influence of fathers extends to shaping their children’s positive attitudes towards school.
  • When fathers actively participate in literacy activities, such as reading together or discussing books, they significantly influence their children’s learning outcomes.
  • Children experience greater school enjoyment, improved attendance, and enhanced social and emotional development when fathers are actively involved.

Deuteronomy 6:4-7 emphasises the importance of passing down wisdom from one generation to the next: “You shall teach [these words] diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up.” Reading with fathers creates special bonding moments, and these shared experiences weave a tapestry of love and connection, strengthening the father-child relationship.

The power of words is exalted in the Gospel of John: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’ (John 1:1). Fathers, as stewards of language, echo this divine proclamation when they enrich and increase their children’s vocabulary. Just as God spoke creation into existence, fathers speak life into their children’s linguistic development, nurturing the seeds of communication.

The book of Galatians promotes the principle of inclusion within the family unit: ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus’ (Galatians 3:28). Fathers, in their commitment to nurturing literacy, challenge societal norms and promote harmony within the household. By actively participating in literacy promotion, fathers exemplify the unity and mutual respect advocated in Scripture.

Let us heed the call within the Scriptures: fathers, grandfathers, uncles, and all paternal figures, embrace your divine mandate to cultivate literacy in the minds of the next generation. Your influence is irreplaceable, your guidance indispensable. And to the mothers, let us rally around our men, supporting and empowering them in their vital role as literacy champions. Together, let us shape a future where every child through the transformative power of literacy is empowered.

For support and free resources I would encourage you to visit the Institute of Wellbeing at https://theinstituteofwellbeing.com/ . They are working on a nationwide initiative to support parents in creating a positive home-learning environment to improve language and literacy skills in children aged 0-5 years.

Reading is a powerful tool, one that opens doors to wisdom, understanding and spiritual growth. Let us encourage our children to read widely, for in the pages of books they discover not only knowledge but also the very essence of life.Rev Stephen Brooks leadsMount Peniel Church, Stafford

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