The Department for Education (DfE) has announced it will be launching a new campaign to encourage parents to “chat, play and read” with their children before they start school.

The announcement follows the publication of a new DfE survey which found that almost a third of children (31%) do not read books with someone at home each day. Only half learn the alphabet or recognise words, while less than 60% learn numbers, count, learn songs, poems or nursery rhymes. However, parents said that having more free time (44%) and working fewer hours (37%) would help them spend more time on learning and play activities with their children.

The “Chat, Play and Read” campaign will be launched later in the year in conjunction with the National Literacy Trust and will highlight that it is never too early to help develop children’s communication, language and literacy skills. It will also provide practical advice on how to fit quality interactions into parents’ daily routines.

Ahead of the new campaign, the DfE has released a new video starring journalist and co-founder of Mum&You, Natasha Kaplinsky, together with Media Psychologist Emma Kenny, as a useful tool which guides parents on how they can chat, play and read with their child.

Currently over 180,000 (28%) children in England are not achieving the levels of communication, language and literacy they need to thrive by the time they finish their reception year.

Jonathan Douglas, Director of the National Literacy Trust, said:

“Changing the course of a child’s life story doesn’t begin on their first day of school, but on their first day of life. And it starts with small talk. Every seemingly small interaction between a parent and a child is a great opportunity to fill that child’s world with words: bath time can be a great time to sing a song together, bus journeys can provide opportunities to talk about what you see around you, and a trip to the library will enable you to choose a book to take home and share together.

“To make these small changes part of normal life, we must support the people, places and services that regularly come into contact with parents and children to promote positive messages around the three areas we know support a quality home learning environment: Chat, Play and Read.”

Last reviewed 15 April 2019