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Junk mail to rescue reading

The Government is giving parents tips on how to help their children learn at home, reports Robert Boyland.

PARENTS are advised to use junk mail to improve their children's reading skills in a pound;6.6 million campaign launched by the Government this week.

Parents can now learn about the national curriculum and get tips on how to enhance their children's education in three 80-page paperback books produced by the Department for Education and Employment.

There is also a free magazine, Parents and Schools, with practical advice for parents and information on favourite school topics.

The books cover three age groups: three to six-year-olds; seven to 11-year olds and secondary pupils.

Each book will offer a guide to what children are learning at school in each subject and suggest how parents can help their children learn at home.

Parents are advised to use large, bright lettering from junk mail to get their children to find smaller words in big words, such as "live" in "delivery".

Asking children to mark the movements of their favourite football team or pop group on a map of the world is suggested as a fun way for them to improve their geography.

To improve maths skills, itemised phone bills can be used by children to estimate the cost of all calls to their frends.

The books will be distributed via schools, supermarkets and shops and will be available from the DFEE and on the Internet.

Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, launched the new materials with David Blunkett, Education and Employment Secretary. Mr Blair said: "Children spend only a fifth of their time at school, but they spend three-quarters of their time learning.

"Parents are a child's first

educator and it is they who shape children's lives more than any other influence.

"So it is essential that parents make the most of their power to give children the best possible start."

Mr Blunkett said: "The vast majority of parents are keen to support their children's education and back up what they are being taught at school.

"For too long, education was a secret garden from which parents felt excluded."

Mick Brookes, president of the National Association of Head Teachers, welcomed in principle the Government's campaign to get parents more involved in their children's education.

He said: "It's a good idea, providing that the guidance to parents is realistic in terms of what they are expecting children to do. "My 30 years of teaching says that where you've got the school, the children and their parents working together, you achieve success."

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