A survey of 300 teachers by Oxford University Press has found that around half had witnessed a child start school without having ever been read stories at home.
The research found children who had regular bedtime stories did better later in their school careers.
Literacy expert Pie Corbett said that reading books was a very important part of language development. "We know a lot of children come into school who have not had a lot of regular bedtime stories," he said. "It is not just about listening to stories it is about joining in and re-telling them. Re-telling enables children to acquire language patterns. That enables them to speak more fluently and then to write."
The survey results came in the same week that research was published claiming to prove a link between children's results in maths at age ten and the amount of television they watched as toddlers.
The research, from Montreal and Michigan universities, found that for each additional hour of television children watched, the less well they were likely to perform in maths.
The research was based on 1,300 children as part of the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development.
It found children watched an average of eight hours a week at two years and five months and 14 hours a week at four and a half. But 11 per cent of the younger children and a quarter of the older children watched more.