Newswise — All too often, childhood memories surrounding nursery rhymes and picture books revolve around mothers. But fathers are their children's first teachers as well. The children " and the entire family " benefit from dad's involvement in their education.

Sharon Darling, president & founder of the National Center for Family Literacy, said children look to both parents as role models. If they don't see parents reading for pleasure and for purpose, then they are less likely to view reading as a pleasurable experience. In addition, if they want to spend time with their dad and he doesn't feel comfortable as a teacher or reading them stories, then either they spend less time with dad or they don't read as often.

NCFL, which has trained more than 1 million educators and volunteers across the United States, has recommendations on reading and other literacy activities that don't have to be expensive or time-consuming. They can be built into your everyday routine.

"Spending time together and learning as a family can be a simple, inexpensive and easy activity. It just requires a little time, imagination and creativity," said Darling. "The rewards are long-lasting for the family and have a long-term impact on the child's academic success.

"When we conduct workshops for parents, they consistently say the sessions reminded them of the importance of family time. Too often, parents are unable to spend joint time with their children but appreciate how special it is to be together as a family."

As Father's Day approaches, NCFL offers the following tips for fathers and families on how to teach their child by using the world around them and maximize time spent reading together:

"¢ Teach math skills by letting your child count the money to pay at the store;"¢ Ask children to find the letters of their name use signs along the street and on buildings;"¢ Increase oral language skills by sharing stories of your childhood; "¢ Make science come alive at home by checking out science experiment books from the library and then trying simple experiments at home. For example, grow a vegetable with your child, chart the growth and talk about it;"¢ Tie reading into an outing. If you're going to a museum, bring home a book about dinosaurs, so they see reading as an experience; and"¢ Use certain techniques for reading that have been proven to increase effectiveness in reading time, including making sound effects to capture their attention and change your voice when different characters speak. You should also talk about the story to reinforce comprehension and memory skills, and read it again because repetition helps children recognize and remember words.

Many of these recommendations are an outgrowth of a program created through a partnership with McDonald's and NCFL called Family Mealtime Literacy Nights. Participating families come to the restaurant one night a week for five weeks for a meal and literacy program. Since October 2006, there have been 45 five-week programs in Southern California. An estimated 675 families have benefitted from the program thus far.

"The program also demonstrates that parents can and should learn how to have important conversations around the dinner table " educational conversations that also strengthen family bonds," Darling said.

After one year of programming, results showed that nearly 90 percent of families are attending the entire five week program and are asking to continue with their studies; parents report using literacy strategies in their home and rely on the materials developed for the program to help their families increase literacy skills; and involvement of fathers in their children's literacy and education development is increasing.

The National Center for Family Literacy, the worldwide leader in family literacy, has raised more than $115 million for literacy efforts since its founding in 1989. More than 1 million families have made positive educational and economic gains as a result of NCFL's work, which includes training more than 150,000 teachers and thousands of volunteers. For more information, contact 1-877-FAMLIT-1 or visit

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