Some fathers did not feel confident reading aloud
Less than half of fathers regularly read bedtime stories to their children, research has suggested.
Some 42% of fathers said they were bedtime story readers, compared with 76% of mothers, a poll of 2,207 adults for the National Year of Reading found.
But 60% of fathers blamed long hours and stress. Television was children's most common pre-sleep activity.
Children's Secretary Ed Balls said reading opened doors to everything.
Boys are consistently outperformed by girls when it comes to reading.
Last year 87% of girls reached the required standard of reading at the end of primary school, compared with 81% of boys.
And campaigners say boys need to see male role models picking up books and enjoying them.
Director of the National Year of Reading Honor-Wilson Fletcher said: "Reading has never been more important, but we know boys lag far behind girls when it comes to reading.
"Boys need to see their dads enjoying reading if they are to become readers themselves as they grow up.
"Football programmes, blogs, newspapers and sports magazines are just as valuable reading as fairy tales."
Six out of 10 fathers said they did not read to their children at bedtime because of long hours and stress.
And one in 10 said they lacked confidence and felt mothers were better suited to the role.
Recent research for the National Literacy Trust suggested three-quarters of children were encouraged to read by their mother, but only a half said the same of their father.
Nearly a quarter of the pupils surveyed said no-one in their family encouraged them to read.
Mr Balls said: "Getting your children - both boys and girls - to be passionate about reading is something all parents can do.
"Reading to your children for 10 minutes at bedtime is the best way of improving our kids' chances when they get to school."