Fathers at Milton Hall Primary School taking part in FRED (Fathers Reading Every Day), a programme run by the Fatherhood Institute for A Better Start Southend, have smashed expectations, reading with their children 63% longer than expected. The target was for each dad to read for three and a half hours over four weeks. In fact, on average, they each read for almost six hours over the four-week period.

The aim of FRED, which has been running at various schools in Southend since autumn 2016, is to get more dads reading to their children regularly, by encouraging them to read together every day for a month – long enough to get the reading habit established so it becomes part of their regular routine. As well as increasing the time they spent together, the fathers also found it improved relationships with their children, building greater closeness and intimacy. Some also said it helped with the bedtime routine by bringing families together at the end of the day and reducing screen time, so that bedtimes became less fraught and children went to sleep earlier. There were also benefits for mothers, who often take on the majority of bedtime reading and after-school activities.

The evaluation of the FRED programme at Milton Hall Primary School looked in particular at 28 dads of 4 year olds out of the 70 who took part in FRED between September and November 2016, as part of A Better Start Southend’s commitment to testing and learning from programmes as they run, establishing what works best for Southend’s children.

Kathy Jones, Joint CEO of the Fatherhood Institute, says:

“We know that dads who read to their children regularly have big impacts on their children’s learning. We expected FRED to have a positive effect on our dads and their children and it’s great to see the project having such a wide-reaching impact. For the fathers who take part in FRED, the benefits of reading with their children are a revelation. This is about reading for pleasure so dads can read anything, it might be a newspaper, a chapter book or a car manual, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that it’s fun and gives dads and children time to bond.

“Looking at the bigger picture in Southend, FRED is about encouraging dads to play a full part in their children’s lives so that children and the wider family benefit. FRED is helping change things in Southend so that services are inclusive of fathers from the outset, giving dads all the support they need to be part of their children’s lives.”

Further evaluation of FRED will be carried out with a new group of dads at Barons Court Primary School after Easter and another group in the summer, and more fathers will be encouraged to become part of the project.

Children who took part in FRED said:

“I like daddy reading with me and my brother because we get together at the end of the day.”

“It was very fun for my daddy to be coming home earlier than usual to read to me.”

“Dad really enjoyed reading to us and sometimes he just never stopped.”

“Maybe everybody’s daddy should read to them every day.”


Fathers’ feedback:

“FRED has strengthened our relationship by demonstrating my commitment to my boys.”

“It’s a crucial time every evening after work. It’s time to relax together, talk about our days and enjoy great stories.”

“My little boy used to not want to go to bed early and he used to play Gameboy until quite late. Now he goes to bed at 8.30pm. My little girl, who is two, now shows a real interest in reading.”


For further information about FRED or if you would like your school or organisation to take part please contact Cassius Campbell at the Fatherhood Institute on 07956 090302 or email cassiuscampbell@fatherhoodinstitute.org.


Article published March 2017