This month we’re delighted to have Kenneth Braswell, Sr., Executive Director of Fathers Incorporated and Director of the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse, as our guest blogger. We invited him to talk about his new community engagement program, Real Dads Read.
About a year and a half ago I found myself in Baltimore, Maryland during the Freddie Gray indictments. On that day while I was attending community meetings, my son and wife were watching the events unfold on CNN. My son, being a curious six-year-old African American boy, wanted to know why his father was as he described, “with all those police.”
When I came home I had to explain to him what he saw. As a result of that conversation I wrote a book about it entitled; “Daddy, There’s A Noise Outside.” Fast forward, the book is teaching grade school aged children around the country the nuances of community unrest and protest. It is having an impact on children as a result of my son’s curiosity. As I look at my work today, I wonder where the direction of my work would be if he wasn’t interested in the world around him.
Why is this important? Well, since that time I have written two other books on subject matters that parents find trouble discussing with their young children. At the same time, my eight-year-old son continues to bring home straight A’s and was recently tested to assess if he is academically gifted. A few nights ago I was looking over his latest progress report, in addition to his reading and math scores, he is excelling in all of his subjects.
His thirst for learning and academics has ignited my drive to want to see other dads engage in the educational lives of their children.
We are now implementing a new community engagement program, Real Dads Read. Real Dads Read (RDR) is aimed at elementary and middle school aged children (K-8) and their fathers/male caregivers with the goals of 1) encouraging children to develop a love of reading, 2) improving children’s literacy skills and educational outcomes, and 3) strengthening bonds between fathers/caregivers and their children.
Real Dads Read (RDR) is a two-generation approach to engaging and improving outcomes for both men and the children for which they are responsible. The National Center for Families Learning (NCFL) recently released research showing that two-generation programs like RDR can improve student achievement, increase parent engagement, improve adult reading behaviors and literacy, and prepare parents to help their children with school.
Reading is a fundamental skill. A child’s ability to read proficiently by third grade is the most significant predictor of his or her school success, high school completion, and future economic stability. However, approximately 80 percent of low-income children will not achieve this crucial milestone. Reading to children is a clear and beneficial way for fathers to spend quality time with their children. Fathers who participate in reading programs with their children are more involved in their children’s education, feel like better parents, and report a better relationship with their child than before they participated in the program. Fathers, however, are often an overlooked resource when it comes to their children’s education.
We have to do better with father engagement in human service programs. Research is just as clear about both the negative and positive aspects of fatherhood. For instance we know that when fathers are absent in the lives of their children they are more apt to engage in behaviors that involve drugs and other substances. This means we also know that when fathers are engaged in a healthy way our children are less apt to engage in harmful behaviors.
Fathers Incorporated is confident that education is one area of work in which we can have a significant impact on the life outcomes of our children.
 Allison Hyra and Stacey Bouchet (2013). Strengthening Literacy and Father-Child Relationships through Reading.
 Green. S. (2003). Involving fathers in family literacy: Outcomes and insights from the Fathers Reading Every Day program. Family Literacy Forum & Literacy Harvest, 2(2): 34-40.
 Mandara, J., & Murray, C. B. (2006). Father’s absence and African American adolescent drug use. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 46, 1-12.