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Citation:Ortiz, R.W. (2000). The many faces of learning to read: The role of fathers in helping their children to develop early literacy skills. Multicultural Perspectives, 2(2), 10-17.

The purpose of this descriptive study is to explore reading experiences that a sample of Mexican American fathers shared with their children and to identify the purpose of fathersÕ participation in early literacy activities. Fathers, especially Hispanic fathers as active participants in their young childrenÕs early literacy development, have not been thoroughly investigated. Findings suggest that the fathers read with their children on various subjects including education, religion, and recreation. Most fathers reported reading academic material, such as storybooks, on a weekly basis. Many fathers felt that schools were understaffed or overcrowded and that their children needed assistance with schoolwork, since teachers could not attend to all studentsÕ needs. Some fathers felt it was necessary to help their children learn to read and write because of the perceived racism and overcrowded classrooms. Fathers also read for recreational purposes, as well as for common household tasks such as instructions. The reasons fathers gave for involvement varied from helping their children in school to sharing personal interests to preparing children to assume family businesses. Many fathers said that it was important that their children become bilingual by exposing them to printed materials in Spanish and English. Data were collected using an interview focused on variables that affect literacy activity within the home. These were administered to 26 self-select U.S. born Mexican-heritage fathers who had a child enrolled in kindergarten or first or second grade. The author provides a few recommendations for practice and policy. First, in developing parent literacy programs, schools might consider cultural context and parents reasons for sharing literacy activities with their children. It is also important to permit literacy development to be relevant to families and their cultures. In encouraging fathers to participate in early literacy activities, reading materials should be considered from the perspective of parents. Educators should also seek both parentsÕ input. Since the data are based on a self selected sample that did not include fathers who did not read to their children as a comparison group, the findings from this study are not universally applicable or generalizable to all school contexts.

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