Third Of Parents ‘Not Influencing Child's Speech And Reading Skills'

Nearly a third of parents do not read to their children as they believe they have little influence on their speech and language development, research has discovered.

According to the National Literacy Trust’s Words For Life campaign, 29% of parents polled think that someone else plays a more important role in their child’s reading, writing and speech development.

Parents rated schoolteachers, nursery staff and other members of the family as more influential than themselves in their child's learning development.

As a result, 14% admit to shunning any quality reading time with their child, or any other activities that encourage literacy skills development, such as singing and reciting nursery rhymes.

These statistics follow a previous report, which discovered that 3.8m children in the UK do not own a book.

Jonathan Douglas, from the National Literacy Trust, said in a statement: "We are launching the Words for Life campaign to encourage parents to build communication and story times into their daily routine.

"Just a few minutes every day will help children gain the skills they need for a successful and happy life."

Adding to this, bestselling author and literacy campaigner, James Patterson, also said in a statement: “Let's face it: Most of us don't realise it, but we are failing our kids as reading role models.

“The best role models are in the home: brothers, fathers, grandfathers, mothers, sisters, grandmothers. Mums and dads, it's important that your kids see you reading. Not just books – reading the newspaper is good too.”

Sally Goddard Blythe, author of What Babies And Children Really Need, told The Huffington Post:

“I am horrified that up to a third of parents do not believe they influence their child's language. Parental interaction is the way that children learn language, and this early training is believed to begin before birth."

She added: “When words and gestures are paired, it is possible to start understand the general meaning of words. This is another example of why physical interaction, tone of voice and facial expression are so important in helping a child to grasp the meaning of language and having a desire to communicate.”

Sue Palmer, author of Toxic Childhood and supporter of the PlayTalkRead campaign, agrees with the need for children to read more with their parents and urges parents to switch off their TVs, phones and computer screens.

“It's now well established that children start learning communication skills from the moment they're born (indeed, even before!) and the more parents talk and sing to them, the better they'll be at speaking, listening and focusing attention," Palmer told The Huffington Post.

“I suspect the serious decline in children's language skills over the last couple of decades is largely due to the proliferation of electronic media. When parents (or their babies or toddlers) are looking at screens, they're not communicating with each other.

“Babies and toddlers don't learn to talk from TV but from real life interaction. In fact electronic entertainment slows down language acquisition under the age of 16 months. The medical advice is to avoid TV altogether till children are 2, then limit screen-time of all kinds to a maximum of two hours a day.”

Kamini Gadhok, chief executive of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) also believe that parents play a crucial role in their child's speech development, telling The Huffington Post: “We would encourage all parents to focus on communication with their child from birth.

"For busy parents, finding the time each day may seem difficult but there are many ways to incorporate communication into daily routines whether it is chatting to baby at bath time or talking to toddlers during meals.

“Identifying communication difficulties as early as possible and accessing help such as speech and language therapy is also vital in improving children’s life chances and ensuring they reach their full potential.

“If a parent or carer has concerns for their child’s speech or communication skills they should contact their local speech and language therapy department.”