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The Changing Role of Fathers

When I first visited a dads group, the stated aim of the program was to encourage father involvement. So as long as fathers were taking the time to play with their children, it was considered a success. It seemed to me that we were not giving sufficient credit to these men, and we were doing very little to meet their needs.

Fatherhood has changed and diversified over the decades, and now fathers are more likely to seek an active role in caring for their children. Fathers are taking more and more time off work for their children, and they are taking more parental leave when their children are born or adopted.

The number of men choosing to be stay-at-home parents is on the rise and men head 20% of single-parent families¹. Some of these trends started decades ago, some show the influence of new ways of thinking, and others are ancient traditions, stereotypes, and systems that still play a part in how fathers see themselves and how we think about fatherhood.

While the view of fathers as family breadwinners endures, the amount of time that fathers commit to home and family responsibilities has increased. As a result, dads are reporting increased levels of conflict between their work and family lives. This is nothing new to working mothers, but a recent survey found 85% of dads are reporting such conflicts, significantly more than what mothers are reporting².

This difference points to a work culture that offers less support and accommodation to fathers than to mothers, as well as stereotypes and stigma that make fathers more reluctant to make choices that put their family life ahead of their career. Still, most men value their family life more than their career, and a 2010 survey found that 49% of fathers would consider a job change if it offered more family-friendly options than their current employer³.

Views of fatherhood have grown from the simplistic model that was pervasive decades ago, to recognizing that there are a lot of different roles associated with fatherhood and a lot of variety between which roles are accepted, anticipated, or rejected by individual fathers.

Many dads are actively engaged with their children and they are seeking programs that recognize them as parents, whether they share in childcare responsibilities or act as the primary caregiver in their family. Although not all dads are engaged in the same way, there are clear benefits – for their children, the whole family, and for themselves – when we recognize their strengths, celebrate the roles they do play, and work with them to help their families succeed and thrive.

¹ Father’s Day by the Numbers 2014, Statscan http://www.statcan.gc.ca/dai-quo/smr08/2014/smr08_187_2014-eng.htm
² Alberta Father Involvement Initiative, 2014; Aumann, Galinsky & Matos, The New Male Mystique, 2008.
³ Harris/Decima. Working Dads Say Balancing it All is the Toughest Job (survey, conducted June 2010, http://www.workopolis.com/content/about/media/june-2010-working-dads


C.O.W. Bus a Great Family Resource

The wheels on the bus go round and round
Round and round, round and round
The wheels on the bus go round and round
All through the town …

In fact the Edmonton Literacy C.O.W. Bus goes all through the town visiting ten different communities on a weekly basis. For families that visit the bus, it is much more than a place to borrow books – it is a safe, friendly environment where they can connect with other adults and children and learn how to support their child’s early learning.

For many parents isolation can be a real challenge, especially if they do not have the resources to pay for pre-school programs. The C.O.W. is a free program that comes to your neighbourhood every week and has trained staff on board to answer your questions and concerns, and allows families to borrow books for free. It is an amazing resource for them.

Last week, staff related a story that really demonstrates, on a personal level, the important role the program plays in the lives of families.

"It was my morning to work on the bus at the Garrison. I noticed a new mother and her child and went to welcome them. They actively participated in the program and chose their books to take home. Before they left, I went over to say good-bye and encourage them to come again next week.

The mother said she was looking forward to next week and hopefully would be more settled into her home by then. She went on to tell me that she and her family had just moved from Ontario... I asked when they had arrived and her response shocked me. They had arrived the night before!

I found it incredible that within hours of moving half way across the country, this family’s first stop was the C.O.W. Bus.

What is incredible are the impressive outcomes that result from such a simple concept. The C.O.W. Bus provides a space where families can share information on a variety of topics in a supportive environment, and where they have access to a broad range of children’s books. Many of the participants in the C.O.W. Bus program develop a life-long reading habit, which leads to greater options in their future.

More information about the Edmonton C.O.W. Bus
Read blogs from the C.O.W. Bus


Learning Opportunities Abound at Fall Conferences

In a continuing partnership with Community Learning Network and Literacy Alberta, the Centre offered two conferences this fall that provided opportunities for participants to discuss and explore topics relevant to the literacy field.

The Practical PIAAC Conference in September helped shed light on the PIAAC survey from a number of perspectives. You can listen to these sessions on our website. The second day of the conference saw participants practicing how to share this information with a variety of stakeholders including businesses, funders and the general public.

The Literacy and Learning Symposium: Navigating Change attracted attendance from across the province. Over the three and a half days, participants could choose from a range of sessions on topics from early brain development to dealing with difficult people. Lionel Laroche, in his closing keynote entitled Teaching Immigrants What They Need to Succeed, stressed that we need to teach adult learners more than technical skills. We need to provide them with the soft skills that help them understand the many unwritten rules that govern our society.


Annual Leading with Literacy Breakfast Set for January

In recognition of National Family Literacy Day, the Centre will host the annual Leading with Literacy Breakfast on Thursday, January 22 at the Westin Hotel.

The keynote speaker this year is Anne Smith, President & CEO of the United Way of the Alberta Capital Region. The three focus areas for the United Way and their partner agencies are education, income and wellness. Anne will talk about how literacy weaves through all of the focus areas.

The breakfast is an opportunity to celebrate the work of the Centre and to acknowledge the nominees and winners of the annual Lois Hole Memorial Literacy awards.

Tickets are available on our website at www.famlit.ca


Family Literacy Practitioner Award Presented

The Ruth Hayden Memorial Family Literacy Practitioner Award was presented at the Literacy and Learning Symposium in October. The award was named in honour of Dr. Hayden and recognizes the accomplishments of individual practitioners in the family literacy field.

The late Dr. Ruth Hayden was an influential leader in the areas of emergent and family literacy and worked tirelessly to advance the field of family literacy in Alberta.

The recipient of the award was Lil Radley, Literacy Services Coordinator at the Lethbridge Public Library. Ms. Radley’s commitment to literacy in the Lethbridge community is demonstrated in the Read On program she administers. With the help of countless volunteer tutors and library staff, Read On has achieved great success for families, immigrants and individuals facing barriers.

“Family Literacy is powerful … A climate of love of learning, and the fun of learning becomes the norm in so many families. These achievements will never make headlines. But they should as they are huge!” said Ms. Radley upon hearing she had received the award.

More about the award