Mother’s day is coming up in May, and while it is easy to recognize the important role of the mother-figure for a developing child, often times the role of the father can be overlooked. However, a recent study, published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, documents the important role of fathers for kindergarten achievement.
Prior to kindergarten entry, researchers asked parents to ‘go through’ a wordless picture book with their child and were recorded during the session. Transcripts of recorded sessions were analyzed to determine the mean length of utterance (a measure of the complexity of parent language input) for mothers and fathers. In other words, were parents explaining the picture book in great detail with their children? Or using simple (less complex) sentences? In the spring of the kindergarten year, trained assessors collected data on child literacy, math and vocabulary to see if parent language input predicted kindergarten achievement.
While mother’s language input (as measured by the mean length of utterance) predicted math, the language input of fathers actually predicted vocabulary and math above and beyond the mother’s language input.
Essentially, this research study outlines the unique contribution that father’s have when it comes to kindergarten achievement. Spending time with Dad going through a picture book can be fruitful for a child above and beyond the pure enjoyment that comes from spending time together. According to the study authors,
“…researchers, practitioners, and policy makers should continue to view fathers as intellectual resources for their young children.”
When thinking about school readiness and entering kindergarten ready to learn, it is important to remember the unique contribution that each parent makes for their child’s continuing development. So, spend a few extra minutes together with your child, explaining pictures and talking through the storyline!
Baker, C. E., Vernon-Feagans, L., & Family Life Project Investigators. (2015). Fathers’ language input during shared book activities: Links to children’s kindergarten achievement. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 36, 53-59.