Parents' reading project aims to boost three-year-olds' language

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A new study aims to find out whether 20 minutes a day of story activities can help parents boost their child’s language skills.

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The Parents and Children Together (PACT) programme, run by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), has been developed to establish whether an early language teaching programme delivered by parents at home for 20 minutes each day can improve young children’s language and early literacy skills.


At the beginning of the programme, parents of three-year-olds at 45 different nurseries will attend a two-hour session on using the programme materials, which have been developed by researchers from the University of Manchester and the University of Oxford with the help of national literacy charity BookTrust.

Over a period of 30 weeks, the parents will spend 20 minutes a day participating in activities with their children, which will include interactive book reading, discussing new words and storytelling.

An independent team from the University of Durham will evaluate the PACT trial to find out what impact the programme has on children’s language skills and how parents and children respond to it.

The EEF has agreed to fund the study after a smaller trial, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, found that children who took part in the programme made larger gains in language than those who did not.

Sir Kevan Collins, chief executive of the EEF, said, ‘We know that children from poorer homes are already behind their better-off classmates when they start school. We also know that the quality of the home learning environment and parental engagement are key predictors of whether a child is likely to succeed at school and in life.

‘Some parents feel anxious about reading to their children, particularly if their own literacy skills aren’t great. Others worry that they can’t afford the same sort of books or trips out that other families can.

‘This new trial will test a programme that aims to provide parents with the skills, strategies and resources to support their children’s language development at home. Our independent evaluation will find out what impact the programme has on children’s language and early literacy skills across a large number of early years settings.’

The EEF will also be funding the trial of a new classroom management programme for primary schools, called STARS.

The programme, delivered by a team from the University of Exeter, will help teachers to improve behaviour in their classroom through six full-day workshops over six months, focusing on collaborative learning to find solutions to problems encountered in the classroom.

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