Louie on the magic of shared reading: 'You just see the positive outcome. Your connection to your child is so different'

Published on: 13 June 2023

As part of the Dads Make Stories Magic campaign, find out how dad Louie has been enjoying books with his son - and how BookTrust books and resources have helped.

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Louie, 26, has a four-year-old son and a newborn daughter. He's been coming to Cornwall's WILD Young Parents Project for four years - an organisation that supports young parents to create a positive start to family life.

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.

'Coming here to the WILD is really refreshing,' says Louie. 'You just get treated like a person. I went from knowing nothing about parenting to learning a lot about myself. I'm now a volunteer peer mentor for younger dads who join. I'm currently waiting for September to start my Diploma in Early Years Education.'

Using books and resources from BookTrust to help inspire families - including Bookstart Toddler and BookTrust Storytime - WILD encourages parents to share stories with their children, including at its weekly group for dads, which meets at allotments in Camborne and Truro.

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Louie sharing a story with his son Tommy on the Wild allotment

'I was always quite bad at reading,' Louie says. 'I always knew how to read, but I'd never really got that interested. I've always been a creative person, but since school I've sort of delved away from books.

'Since getting to WILD and reading together and doing all the songs, I'm now really involved with books. Now, my son and I try to read through a book together every night, or at least a couple of pages.

'You look at your child and see their mind ticking when you're reading these stories - they're being creative and imagining what's happening. He's excited, he's happy, he's loving it. I think reading is such a positive thing.'

Over time, Louie has gained the confidence to read aloud and lead the other dads in playful book-related activities around the allotment, inspiring them to read books and share stories with their families. Louie says this has now become a ritual for the WILD dads.

'Every single week, we have to do it,' he says. 'It's just really fun. I never thought I'd be doing anything like this. I think it's nice for my son to see me step up. I've never really done much public speaking or reading aloud. Doing it around kids is something I really enjoy. It gives me a chance to be childish myself, and I can't get in trouble for it. I can be as goofy as I want.'

BookTrust and WILD – working together to empower parents as reading role models

Louie leading a 'bear hunt' while holding a copy of We're Going on a Bear Hunt - he's walking through an archway created by the arms of other parents and is looking at his son ahead of him

'Wild is massively into building relationships between parents and their children,' says Luke Keast, Area Worker for WILD Young Parents Project. 'Reading supports that connection [between parent and child], it supports learning and development. It's a really important part of what we do.

'The main barrier is that dads here have not been introduced to books in a healthy way themselves, or had that relationship with reading, so they feel they can't do it.'

Luke adds: '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, says: 'Reading can happen anywhere you like. Some families may not feel comfortable coming into more traditional settings where conversations typically happen around reading and books. People may need to be somewhere that feels more specific and familiar to them to help take away some of the structural barriers.

Louie stroking a baby strapped to his chest while holding a book in one hand, joined by two women - one of whom is wearing a Wild T-shirt

'Organisations like WILD understand the needs of their families - this allotment is a space that's theirs. Place-based interactions have the power to make all the difference. The fact that WILD see the power of reading and stories as part of that bigger transitional journey for parents just aligns beautifully with how BookTrust wants to support families on their reading journeys.'

What would Louie say to encourage other dads to share a story with their family?

'Motivation is the hardest thing,' says Louie. 'I say just give it a try - get out there and read to your kids. Try to read one small book. If you find that easy, just try a slightly bigger book.

'You just see the positive outcome once you actually start doing it. Your connection to your child is going to be so different.'

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