Doing voices and getting into character: Nathan and Lewis share their magical experiences of sharing stories with their babies

Published on: 18 June 2023

Family life can often feel like spinning plates and it's hard to find time for quiet moments with your children.

New dads Nathan and Lewis from Cornwall share their experiences of how WILD Young Parents Project has supported them to introduce books and stories into family life and what a difference it has made to their own bonding experiences and their child's development.

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First-time parent Nathan has a nine-week old son. Since using BookTrust resources and taking part in book-related family activities, Nathan feels more supported and talks about what he sees as the benefits of reading and sharing stories.

"I think there'll be a lot of mutual bonding and I'll just spend more time with him. When I'm working full time it's nice to just get home and give him a cuddle."

Research from BookTrust and children's publisher Farshore and HarperCollins Children's Books shows that many dads in particular face a range of barriers to reading.

"I do think time would be one of the biggest restrictors of reading together," Nathan says. "By the time I get home from work, have dinner, have a shower and sit down for five minutes, it's already past 8 o'clock. By then, we're trying to get him in the bath, get him dressed for bed, get him in his routine.

"And how expensive books actually are," he adds. "They are awfully priced and if you want one that's in a good condition, you need a hardback and you're paying an extra five or six quid for it. That makes it a bit difficult to afford it, especially in today's financial crisis."

Dads Nathan and Louie planting on an allotment together as part of WILD Parents Project

Despite these challenges, Nathan sees bonding as a key benefit of reading with his son.

"If you spend those ten, 15 minutes reading a book you're just bonding. A couple of pages here or there makes a difference. It's the recognition of your voice, your smell, the eye contact and the big smiles you get from it."

Nathan is a big fan of The Lord of the Rings and is already looking forward to sharing that book with his son. "My mate got us The Hobbit to read to him. I will full send [give 100 per cent to] the characters! I can't wait for The Lord of the Rings - Gandalf! I will do the voice, I'll do the acting, I'll do everything! It doesn't matter if it's a mum or dad reading. Focus on the character, do the voices, change the tone and get them interested."

Meanwhile, dad Lewis has seen a huge difference in his one-year-old daughter's speech and language development since reading and shares his experiences of reading in his family.

"You see them listening, as well as all the pictures of different characters and you end up picking favourites of books and coming along with words too. We had a point where she wasn't really saying too many things. We got more reading going and, all of a sudden, she was coming out with key words like 'mama'. She was even saying 'thank you' and 'up' when she wanted to be picked up."

Reading is a shared activity in Lewis's home. "We take it in turns and we're always in the same room as well so the kids see the adult is listening as well and there is a respect for the reader," he says. "We try to get our eldest to read some of the books she brings home from school. It's nice to see how they react to that."

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Having different people reading with children offers them something new. "The way people talk, accents and how they represent themselves when they are speaking can be different and seeing different things is always nice," says Lewis.

He adds: "Two years ago, I never thought I'd be reading bedtime stories to anyone. It's definitely a key part of bedtime now. We don't miss it for anything."

Luke Keast, Area Worker for WILD Young Parents Project adds: "Reading supports that connection [between parent and child], it supports learning and development. It's a really important part of what we do. The BookTrust resources support parents in their understanding of why reading is good, and they're presented in an easy-to-grasp way, so more people can get on board. The BookTrust books themselves are brilliant - and so is being able to offer them to families who otherwise might not have them at home."

Ashley Wyeth, Partnerships Manager for BookTrust in the South West region, explains why partnerships with organisations are so critical to BookTrust's mission to ensure every children can enjoy the benefits of reading: "It's about overcoming barriers.

"Some of these mums and dads may not be great or confident readers themselves. It's about how you start that journey. The fact that WILD see the power of reading and stories as part of a bigger transitional journey for these parents aligns with our core strategy and why they are the perfect partner for us."

BookTrust collaborates with local partners like WILD Young Parents Project in communities across England, Wales and Northern Ireland to share books and resources that encourage families on their reading journeys.

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