With Father’s Day just around the corner, we at the Utah Women & Leadership Project at Utah Valley University want to celebrate the many ways that fathers support their daughters’ educational growth. And the best part is that most dads already do these four simple but extremely impactful things! Here’s what we found in our research:
1. Read with her. Curious George, Goodnight Moon, Captain Underpants, Harry Potter, it doesn’t matter what books you share. The simple act of reading with a child promotes cognitive development, language skills, improved vocabulary (research has found a link between early vocabulary and the likelihood a child will graduate from high school) and creates a father/daughter bond that will endure.
For example, one woman in our research shared the following:
“I remember when I was in 2nd grade I had an obsession with reading; my dad would suggest books to me, and sometimes even read the books at the same time as me so that we could discuss the plots. I remember always trying to read as quickly as he would when we were reading books at the same time so that he wouldn’t have to wait for me to turn the page, of course, he didn’t really mind waiting for me.”
2. Help with homework. If you make it a priority, your child will too. Perhaps your knowledge and experience can navigate tricky assignments and build confidence. But what if you’re a terrible speller or forgot how to divide fractions? That’s okay too. Create an environment where it’s alright to make mistakes and move on. A great way for your daughter to solidify her learning is to let her teach you. Whether it’s math, social studies or biology, when a dad sits down to do homework with his daughter, he sends a strong message: school matters.
But perhaps there’s an even more important message being sent: YOU matter!
3. Create projects you can do together. As a kid, nothing was more exciting than when my dad, Boyd Willden, wanted to do a project with me. For example, he loved genealogy and guided me through the process after assigning me a specific ancestor to research. Teach your daughter how to fry an egg, change a tire, paint a room, sing a song, stand up for what she believes and serve a neighbor in need. In fact, learning things together will strengthen your bond and model that learning is not just done in a classroom.
4. Talk about education. If you went to college, tell her about your favorite classes. From a young age, ask her what she wants to study, and show your excitement in her interests. If she says she wants to be a mermaid, then talk about marine biology. Promote learning in all that you do.
To all the dads of girls out there who take the time to read, play, help, and create—it matters. Whether intentionally or not, you are communicating to your daughters that learning and education are important to her growth. And that is something to celebrate.