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Government backing for talk

A CAMPAIGN to persuade parents to chat to children in order to improve toddlers' speaking skills has received initial backing from government officials.

Liz Attenborough, former director of the National Year of Reading, is being funded by the Department for Education and Skills to develop the Talk to Your Baby campaign for the National Literacy Trust.

The campaign follows a joint survey by the trust and the National Association of Head Teachers which revealed 74 per cent of the 121 heads polled felt young children's speaking and listening skills had deteriorated in the past five years.

But fears that toddlers' speaking skills are getting worse are unfounded, say researchers.

A TES investigation of objective evidence has discovered little to support the view that children begin school less able to listen and speak than five years ago.

The Pips assessment of children's abilities, developed by Durham University, shows that children's vocabulary and ability to spot rhymes has improved in the 722 schools which have used the test over the past five years.

Mrs Attenborough said: "Even if language skills have not got worse, there is certainly room for improvement.

"There is no question that the whole communication skills area is incredibly important and the more we can do to help children develop language and communication skills has to be good."

For more information on the campaign see www.literacytrust.org.uk

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