Research keeps piling up demonstrating that kids whose fathers are involved in their school life and activities do better academically and have fewer behavior problems than kids with fathers who steer clear of the classroom.
Yet even in an era when parents have lots of leeway to go outside the lines of traditional gender roles, moms still tend to be the ones who interact with teachers and help plan school events, not dads.
That just might change thanks to an initiative called Dads Take Your Child to School Day. It’s an event that aims to get fathers actively involved in their children’s education, so kids will be motivated to do better.
It’s not that all fathers have nothing to do with their kids’ school life, but that “traditionally, it’s something they don’t take much part in the way mothers do,” Hershel Lyons, chancellor of K-12 public schools in Florida, tells Yahoo Parenting. Florida is the latest state (joining New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Illinois) to encourage school districts to schedule a dad’s day. (Florida will hold theirs on Sept. 30.)
During the initiative (the exact date varies by state and district), dads are encouraged to take their kids to school, meet teachers and principals, attend parenting workshops and socializing sessions with other fathers, and are treated to breakfast and a school band performance.
Lyons has long sensed the need to come up with a way to make fathers feel more welcome inside school doors. “As a deputy superintendent, I attended a father’s breakfast held at an elementary school, and it was a huge hit. The kids loved it, and the dads did too,” he says. “I realized we had to keep figuring out ways to bring more fathers in.”
While doing research online, he came across Dads Take Your Child to School Day, which got its start as a grassroots effort in Illinois after the Million Man March in 1995, then spread to New York State eight years ago. In New York and other states, it was transformed into a broader initiative, one that extended from preschool all the way through high school.
And it’s not just for dads. “Any father figure in a child’s life is welcome,” Scott Leach, director of the fatherhood initiative at the New York City department of youth and community development, tells Yahoo Parenting. Leach is in charge of the initiative across New York State, which will be held on Sept. 22 at 800 schools, up from 650 last year. (School participation varies by district, says Leach.)
In fact, moms are welcome too. “We encourage mothers to come, but we gear it toward dads because they are the ones who traditionally don’t take much part in their child’s school life,” Lyons says.
“The whole idea is to inspire fathers to be engaged in school for their kids’ sake, to encourage them to do better,” he says. It’s not at all a knock against moms, but a call to fathers to help their children succeed in the classroom and develop the life skills and confidence an involved parent offers.