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The Father Factor


6 Summer Reading Tips for You and Your Child

Summer is a great time to slow down and connect with your kids. Stop laughing, I'm serious! You can slow down! Whether it's a vacation or evenings at home, Summer is a great time to connect with your child through reading.

My oldest daughter reads on her own now, so she rarely wants me to read aloud to her. In fact, when I try to read aloud to her, she quickly takes the book and starts reading aloud herself! Realizing how quickly she's growing up, this Summer may be the last one my other daughter (just a little younger) is young enough to need me for reading.


I am determined to make the most of reading to my girls this Summer. Hopefully, they will learn how important reading is from watching me. If you read my list and think of something I missed, tell me in the comment section.

"The man who does not read good books is no better than the man who can't." —Mark Twain

Here's my plan for connecting with my kids through reading during the Summer break...

1.  Be the Example.
When your kid sees you reading, he will understand reading is important and fun. The younger your child, the better this works. This doesn't mean you have to be seen walking around the house with an encyclopedia (remember those?). But, be sure you can be found reading the newspaper (remember those?) or a magazine on your iPad. The important thing is to model to your child the importantance of reading.

2. Read Aloud with Your Child.
This probably won't work if you have older kids, but if you have young kids, be sure to red aloud to them. Reading together brings you and your child close and allows for a connection unlike any other. Reading usually opens opportunities for conversation as well. Simply asking questions like, “Why do you think he did that?” or “What else could she have said?” can create meaningful conversation between you and your child. For the older kid, try reading the same book as your teen and seek out ways to talk about the book together. 

3. Make Books Easily Available.
No brainer? Not really. Think about this: Are your child's books on the low self where he can reach them? Simply having books around the house with all kinds of topics may help your child get curious about a topic he wouldn't have otherwise considered. Be sure you have several topics of possible interest around the house, from space and flight to geology and geography. In general, the more pictures the better. Remeber, you're developing curiosity for reading, the books need not be all text!

4. Let Your Child Pick the Book.
Ask your child what her favorite topic is; after discussing it, spend some time together shopping for the best book on that topic. You could search and buy online or simply visit your local library. The point here is to be simple and be together. This doesn't have to cost you anything other than time. And I'm pretty sure you won't regret the time spent!

5. Make Reading a Habit.
Depending on your schedule, the best time to read may be morning, evening or at bed time. Whatever time you pick, try and create a routine over the Summer. If you're child is human, he will probably say, "I'm bored!" over the long Summer days. Try setting a daily time to read so you avoid telling your kids, "Oh, you're bored, read a book!" Let's work to not equate boredom with reading! Evening tends to work at my house. Mornings are busy and at night, well, my kids are wild at night. It's often difficult to get my girls settled down before bed enough to pay attention and read a book. However, Kids love routine, even if they hate it at first, trust me!

6. Connect Books to Life. 
Going camping or to the beach this Summer? Find a book that talks about camping or the ocean and read it a few days before traveling. I promise, the book will come alive to your kid. Then, while on the trip, you can refer back to the book to create more interest in reading and learning.

Try these places for age-specific books and activities related to reading:

What are you and your child reading this Summer?

photo credit: Simon Cocks

Out and About with Trees ...and Books?

This is a guest post by Ave Mulhern, NFI's Director of the National Responsible Fatherhood Capacity Building Initiative. She shares her memories of exploring the great outdoors with her dad as a child as part of NFI's campaign to help Dads "Get Out: Hit the Great Outdoors with Your Kids This Summer."

Being in the great outdoors was not a big part of my upbringing. I tend to be more comfortable in the great indoors.

That being said, I do remember some wonderful times being out and about with my father who had a love of books and trees. I am the sixth child of a family of eight. Five boys first, then three girls - I am the first girl. In a way, we were like two separate families. The wild, older boys were all car fanatics and they worked in my fathers business, a service station. When we girls came along, my dad was obviously an older, kinder and gentler version of a father. Don’t get me wrong, he was always a bit of a grump and in his later years, he was called (to his face) “Grumps.” This probably was due to a disappointing life for a bright and scholarly man on his way to becoming an attorney who ended up owning a service station fixing peoples cars. Life happens, but with this latter, gentler, girl family he was able to leave the grease behind, for a bit, and have an attentive audience of three to spend time with and share his love of learning - and we believed he knew just about everything.

My father Cornelius (aka Connie) was an avid reader. I can barely muster up a mental image of him not reading a book. He loved history books, business and real estate books, biographies, and nature books. In the summer, he literally took us to the library every single week – and if we didn't bicker in the car, we might get an ice cream at Chernoff’s Pharmacy. He took us to quirky old used bookstores and he owned a lot of books. One collection was the little Golden Field Guides - you know, those little pocket sized nature books titled Birds of North America, Rocks and Minerals, and SeaShells of North America? I suppose they have versions for other areas than North America? But the one I remember most is Trees of North America. I still have it around here somewhere.

Dad would drive to nearby Morris Arboretum armed with the little tree book and he would send us off to identify certain trees. I once successfully spotted a Beech tree based on his vivid description of how the enormous and magnificent branches grow out and down to touch the ground like a giant 70-foot-wide shrub - but underneath, those low branches create a sort of “house” or “fort” that you could play in. He reminded us that these trees must be planted with enough foresight to ensure the proper setting and enough room to mature into their magnificence. Dad drove us around town showing us where the township built the sidewalk around a 200-year-old oak tree preserving it for the future. We saw distinctive Horse Chestnut trees with spring flowers and fall conkers (nuts), the toxic but valuable Black Walnut trees, the beautiful star-shaped leaves of the Sweet Gum tree and the really wretched smelling fruit of the prehistoric female Gingko tree. (The male version doesn’t stink!)

To this day, there are two specimens of those magnificent beech trees, properly placed mind you, on the front lawn of a beautiful estate home nearby. I never pass by them without thinking fondly of my dad and our somewhat-outdoor adventures. My own children were not as interested as my sisters and I – but right now I am looking for that little Trees of North America field guidebook so I can take it with me to Wisconsin to share with our grandchildren. Hey, is Wisconsin considered North America?

Guest Post: Bonding With Books

This is a guest post from daddy blogger Chris Singer, a stay-at-home dad in Lansing, MI. You can find him on twitter @tessasdad and at

As a stay-at-home dad to a precocious 19-month-old toddler, I spend a good amount of time during the day fixing and my own screw-ups. Whether it's forgetting to keep doors closed and gates up (especially to the bathroom, or risk finding my toothbrush in the toilet), or it's letting my daughter play with something she probably shouldn't (like the house keys, which can easily end up in my daughter's favorite hiding spot: the garbage can), I swear I've made enough mistakes to get fired from most jobs.

Seriously though, as much as I might screw up during the day, one of the things I've been successful at has been helping my daughter develop a love of books. As a child I loved being read to and really had a passion for books. It's been amazing for me to see Tessa enjoy books so much already at such a young age. Reading books and visiting the library twice a week has become a big part of our daily and weekly routines.

Reading is also an excellent way to bond with your child. I've been reading to Tessa since she was born, and I'm convinced that this has been a key component to the strong bond we have formed. Here are some things I've figured out over time which I think played a huge role in Tessa developing a love for books:

Don't force it - One of the early frustrations I had as a dad was that I really felt it was important to read to Tessa but I could hardly ever get her to sit still for a book. I don't know how I was able to do it, but I never forced her to sit for a story. When she wanted to be done with a book, we were done with that book. At times, we might try another one, but if she wasn't into it, I didn't force the issue.

Small books for small hands - I had all these lists of the best children's books I would take with me to the library. I would sign out three or four at a time and bring them home only to find that Tessa wasn't interested in any of them. I decided to stop taking the list with me and see what books Tessa would grab for herself. She kept going over to the baby board books and picking them off the shelf. At first I thought they were just easier to pull off the shelf until I saw her sitting there and holding the book in her hand and flipping through the pages. At home Tessa does the same thing and will pick up books and flip through them. We've even given her the small board books to keep her busy in the car and they've worked like a charm.

Let her ask or tell you she wants to read
- This is similar to my first tip in that I don't make any demands of Tessa when it comes to books. When she's interested in reading I know she'll either bring books over to me or will ask me to read to her. I will occasionally ask her if she wants to read books and she will usually respond by saying yes, but I want her to develop the initiative to read and look at books on her own.

Make reading fun
- When I read books out loud to Tessa, I make up voices for the different characters and try to make the stories fun. I do a pretty good Grover voice actually, so this could be why her favorite book right now is "The Monster At The End of This Book."

Daddy Chris and daughter Tessa reading together

The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of National Fatherhood Initiative.

12,000 Quotes, Yet One Too Few...

Since I do a fair amount of speaking on fatherhood in churches these days, I was delighted to come across a book called, “12,000 Religious Quotations.” To make things even better, it was on sale for $14.95, nearly ½ off the list price.

I was especially pleased when I read the back cover, which boasted:

  • An indispensable reference work that puts expressive statements on religion at your finger tips.
  • Nearly 12,000 quotes on 200 subjects from 2,500 different sources.
  • These quotations—some inspiring, a few controversial, many humorous, others penetrating—reflect a diversity of opinions, Christian and non-Christian.
  • Thought-provoking quotes that will enliven sermons, speeches, or reports.

Good stuff.

Well, I got the book home and quickly flipped to the section that was sure to be bursting with some inspiring quotes about fathers or fatherhood. I found the word “fate” and turn the page and found “fear…” Wait a minute. (I quickly said my ABCs…) Shouldn't father or a least fatherhood be listed? But it’s not. Maybe there is something listed under Dad, Daddy, or…Papa. Nope, nope and nope. Nothing. 12,000 quotes and not a single one on fathers.

So, then I looked up mothers. Yep, about 30 quotes with gems like:

The sweetest sound to mortal given

Are heard in Mother, Home and Heaven.

-William Goldsmith Brown

Now, I love mothers. I have one. I am married to one. And, some of my best friends are mothers. But, it seems that this author has forgotten biology 101. Without fathers, there are no mothers. (You can quote me on that one…)

I did find one quote in the “error” section that captured my sentiments.

Shall error in the round of time

Still father Truth?

-Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Let’s hope so…

Now, where did I put that darn receipt? To err is human, to return is divine.

That's Cosmic!

Frank Cottrell Boyce's latest book, Cosmic, is a must-read for dads and kids. One of NFI's board members, Chip Flaherty, sent it to me. He is with Walden Media, whose publishing house, Walden Pond Press, released the book here in the states on January 19 (it was first released in the UK about a year ago).

When I first scanned the book, I was not sure what the heck the connection was to NFI and fatherhood. I left it sitting on my desk for a month or so. But once I finally started it, I could not put it down. It was funny, touching, imaginative, and one of the best celebrations of fatherhood I have seen in a long time.

It is the story of an 11-year-old boy who is often mistaken for an adult. His unusual size and appearance lead him to many wild adventures, not the least of which is a trip to the moon as a chaperon to a group of tweens. During this flight in space, he learns a lot about what being a dad means, and how important his own dad is to him.

All I can say is JUST READ IT! You will not regret it, nor will your kids. A great book to read together.

You can purchase it on here.

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