Friday, November 14, 2014

Dads: An Opportunity?

I live in a nice suburban town close enough to New York City that a great many of the parents commute. A few towns away is the aptly named Summit -- a geographically accurate designation, true, but the connotation is such as accurate: wealthy stock brokers -- Tom Wolfe's Masters of the Universe -- live there. We're not a destination for those types, but plenty of people here are closely connected to Wall Street, banking, investing. As a result, when the economy crashed in 2008 the "for sale" signs were visible on every street. Many dads (and surely moms, but I don't speak with them as often) lost their jobs. And while most families either recovered or left, I know a healthy collection of bright, educated, well-read dads who simply have not found their way back into the work force. Not all of them were directly involved in finance, but  they found that being middle aged and accustomed to a decent salary made it hard, no impossible, to find steady work.

I see the stay-at-home dads with their strollers heading down for coffee in the morning, taking girls to one swim meet after another, in the parks and playgrounds, in the library. The point of this post is that last spot: the library. I wonder if we have made enough of the stay-at-home dad? Will the reading he selects and shares with younger kids, the books he seeks out with his middle-grader, be the same as those his wife, or a care-giver, might have selected? There is another subset of such dads here b/c we are also a destination for same sex couples with families. Between the dad home because their family has one dad working and one at home, and the dad who is contributing to his family by minding the kids and running the house while his wife earns the bulk of the money we have -- or we may have -- a new kind of parent closely involved with his child's reading.

Of course given my interests and the focus of this blog, I wonder if such dads will be more comfortable with nonfiction than their wives were? Will they be more ready to bring home books of war, combat, generals and tanks? That's one easy to posit stereotype: shallow but plausible. What if libraries and stores started to program with dad caregiver in mind. Robotics, Lego, Maker projects are all the rage already. Maybe we should revive the fathers and sons reading group I tried a few years ago. What do you think -- are we unusual or are there enough of such dads, and is there enough difference in what they bring to children and reading, to suggest that we should be exploring some new paths? New programs? New displays? How can we re-envision reaching families when more and more of the parents involved with reading are the dads?

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