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Community program brings new dads the joy of reading to their children

A good book can ignite imagination, spur curiosity. For children, especially of an early age, being read to by their parents can play a significant role in their future success.

“Books are important tools for child development,” said Rosie Price, RN, Yale New Haven Hospital nurse home visitor. “Reading to babies and toddlers improves their language skills, which are associated with later success in school and beyond.”

The Family Home Visiting Partnership of New Haven, a collaborative program by YNHH, Fair Haven Community Health Care and Cornell Scott-Hill Health Center, provides free parenting education and hands-on support to new moms and dads in the New Haven area.

As part of the program, a parent educator visits new parents in their homes (these days by tele-support) to help make their transition into parenthood easier. Each visit focuses on the child’s healthy growth and development, including early childhood education.

“Fathers don’t always realize they’re as essential as mothers in creating learning opportunities for their children,” said Onya Harris, LCSW, program manager, Family Home Visiting Partnership. “This could be due to a lack of knowledge about child development, or a lack of confidence in their ability to be a teacher.”

This month, the Partnership is running a literacy campaign called “Dads Read, Too,” that encourages new fathers to read stories to their children and discuss the experience with parent educators. The Partnership provides books.

“The stories are available in English or Spanish, and with titles like Dad By My Side and My Dad Loves Me!, are geared toward strengthening the child/father bond,” said Debreeda Jones, parent educator, Cornell Scott-Hill Health Center.

“Reading creates a connection, which can be as essential to the child’s development as literacy,” said Anthony Coler, home visitor, YNHH. “When a dad reads to his child, the child feels his warmth and learns to imitate his gestures and expressions. As the baby grows, the father experiences the joy of seeing himself in his child.”

Cordell Pemberton, parent educator, Fair Haven Community Health Center, added, “Reading is empowering for dads because they get to see their child’s reactions during the experience. That connection makes them feel like they’re a part of their baby’s discovery and gives them confidence and pride in their role as teacher.”

The Family Home Visiting Partnership of New Haven takes self-referrals and referrals from social workers, pediatricians or other healthcare providers and local agencies. If you know a family who might benefit from this program, contact Onya Harris, LCSW, at [email protected].