“It’s good for children to see a man reading stories. Just go for it because it’s so much fun – your child’s not going to be judgmental"
Published on: 13 June 2023
Paul Hughes from North Bridlington Library explains how Saturday story times have built dads' confidence to share stories.
As Supervisor for North Bridlington Library in East Riding of Yorkshire, Paul Hughes and his team regularly host lively, interactive events at the library to engage families with reading.
The library recently participated in BookTrust Storytime – a pilot delivered in partnership with local authorities and libraries that aims to encourage families with children aged 0-5, especially those who aren't regular library users, to share stories together and make visiting their library a regular part of family life.
"It's difficult to get dads in, especially during the week when a lot of them are at work," Paul says. "It's good for children to see a man reading stories. One of the advantages of BookTrust Storytime is that we decided to run it on Saturdays - and that's what helped us to actually make contact with the fathers."
Following the success of hosting BookTrust Storytime on Saturday mornings, North Bridlington Library has continued to run these sessions each weekend – and the community of dads coming along continues to grow.
Rob now comes along to the library's Saturday Storytime sessions each week with his three -year-old daughter.
"The dads that come here appreciate having this time," he says. "It's a good opportunity with it being a Saturday.
"I think a lot of parents may not be confident to read a story with intonation and so on. The librarians who read the stories here are great every week, and I think parents could learn from that. Reading is a lovely thing to do with your child."
How does Paul feel library storytime can support dads to build their confidence with sharing stories and books with their families?
"We've now got a lot of fathers coming," says Paul. "Whether a mum or a dad reads, the approach is the same. You've got to encourage them. Reading may not be something that they've done with their children before. Or they might not read a lot themselves. If they can come into a story time and see how it's done, they will feel more confident. If you see other dads reading, you don't feel so left out and strange.
"During storytime, we link the stories with a craft session or playing with Lego. Dads like that hands-on stuff with the kids. They have some sort of structure, so it makes them feel more comfortable.
Paul adds: "Parenting is a hard job and dads don't get a lot of opportunity to talk about issues. When we're delivering the stories, dads can be at the back chatting to other dads so you get that community sharing information. It's really special and we wouldn't have had that without running BookTrust Storytime on Saturdays. It's just brilliant to see."
Supporting families to enjoy the benefits of sharing stories
"For dads, seeing another bloke reading and being prepared to make an absolute idiot of himself gives them permission to do the same," Paul says.
"That's the joy of reading with your children, it is such fun and builds an increased bond between father and child. You're spending quality time and exploring imaginative journeys together. It's really a journey of discovery, both for the parent and the child.
Shauni Sanderson, Partnerships Manager for BookTrust in the North, says: "We're working with really experienced, passionate staff in the East Riding Library Service. It's so important for BookTrust to work closely with local authorities because our partners have that real on-the-ground understanding of the communities and the people they're working with.
"North Bridlington Library is a great example. The staff here have seen and identified a need from the people who visit. They started holding BookTrust Storytime on Saturdays, and they saw how popular it was with dads. There was a demand to keep it going, and now they've got this amazing regular group."
Paul's message to encourage dads to try sharing a story with their family is:
"You don't have to have detailed knowledge of books. You just need to know what a child likes and we [librarians] can help choose something that's appropriate.
"Just go for it because it's so much fun. Just relax. Don't worry about it. Your child's not going to be judgmental. They're going to enjoy doing something with you."