The most meaningful gift this holiday season

Guest Blogger  //  Dec 16, 2016

The most meaningful gift this holiday season

Looking for ways to make reading an integral part of this holiday season? In his guest post, Mark Merrill, President and Founder of Family First and All Pro Dad, gives his top tips for dads to help their kids discover the joy of reading.


As a father of five children, I love how the spirit of the holiday season beckons families to bond, cherish one another and love others around them more so than any other time of year. There is often more opportunity to reflect and relax with the people closest to you. This year, my challenge is for fathers to make the most of this special time with your family and create memories that will transform your children for years to come.

Experiences last longer than presents and candy canes. Moments stand far superior to a perfectly decorated house or the picture-perfect Christmas card.   

Spend time this season curled up on the couch with your child and a good book.

Leave behind technology and explore a new world with them. Model what it looks like to learn and dream by turning the pages of what could become both of your favorite stories.

Here are some tips to equip dads to make reading the best part of the holiday season:

  1. Make story time with your child a routine. Before supper, after bath time, a bedtime ritual or whatever works with your family schedule. Children thrive on routine, and they’re going to love this one.
  2. Read with your children, not to them. This might mean running your finger under the words as you say them or entering into the spirit of the story by reading with expression and enthusiasm. Show how much fun reading can be because dad loves it, too!
  3. Make reading an interactive experience. Ask questions as you go, such as, “What do you think happens next?” “Remind me what happened on the last page,” and “Let’s read this sentence out loud together.”
  4. Be an active reader yourself. In other quiet moments, read your own books while your kids read theirs. Share what’s going on in your story and ask what’s going on in theirs.
  5. Subscribe to an age-appropriate magazine in your child’s name. It’s fun to get something in the mail, and it’s always fresh material.

With these tools in hand, story time will be the best part of the season.

Reading isn’t something All Pro Dad promotes one time a year. We practice what we preach. One of my favorite events we host is the All Pro Dad Father and Kids Experience. Hundreds of dads and their families enjoy a morning of meaningful experiences and activities at NFL and NCAA stadiums across the country. High fives fly, kids race dad in the 40-yard dash, and tickle fights break out in the end zone.

My favorite part of the day, however, is the end: Dads and kids gather at midfield, and every family gets 3 books. Right then and there, story time commences! The high-energy action stops and what ensues is an incredible picture of what our families should look like every day.

Dads, you only get one chance to raise each of your children. Take time to read with them this holiday season and develop a rhythm that brings you together all year long.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays!


Mark Merrill is founder and president of Family First, a widely respected national non-profit organization dedicated to strengthening the family. All Pro Dad is the fatherhood program of Family First. All Pro Dad is proud to support Scholastic and its mission to encourage the intellectual and personal growth of all children. 

Images via All Pro Dad