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Read to your children for a head start

Children who are read to daily at the age of three are more than two months ahead of their classmates in literacy and maths by the age of five, research found today.

Reading is more important to a child's development than teaching them the alphabet or how to count, a study by the University of London suggests.

The study analysed the teacher assessment of five-year-olds carried out at the end of reception year of primary school in England for more than 10,600 children. This is not usually used in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland but teachers carried out one-off assessments for the survey.

The findings show that daily reading sessions boosted children's scores in all areas, including knowledge and understanding of the world, as well as literacy and maths.

Children who were read to daily also outscored their classmates in assessments of their social, emotional, physical and creative development.

Researcher Dr Kirstine Hansen said: "The relationship between teaching the alphabet and counting is insignificant, but reading every day to a child has a positive effect on their outcomes."

The study comes days after research by the Sutton Trust found that good parenting behaviour, such as reading daily to children or making sure they have a regular bedtime can have a positive impact on a youngster's vocabulary skills, regardless of their background.