Children with high reading skills at age 10 can see the effect in their pay packets more than 25 years later, a new study has found.
Research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) found that a child from a low-income background who was a strong reader at age 10 would earn 21 per cent more per hour at age 38 on average than someone from a similar background with poor reading skills.
Children from richer families with better reading scores earned 10 per cent more than their peers.
The research was carried out for the Read On, Get On campaign; a coalition of charities, businesses and educationalists, which today publishes a report calling for the next government to take action to ensure that all children leave primary with a good level of reading.
The report The Power of Reading calls for a commitment for graduates to lead lessons in every nursery in England by 2020, a recommendation that would require 11,000 more university-leavers to join the profession.
Julia Cleverdon, chair of the campaign, said: "It's time to make nurseries the front line in tackling social mobility in this country.
"Every child deserves a fair start in life – regardless of the wealth of their family. By providing quality and qualified teaching in every nursery, we can ensure every child arrives at school with the building blocks in place to learn to read and succeed."
The report points out that only 13 per cent of staff in private, independent or voluntary-run (PVI) nurseries have a relevant degree, compared with 35 per cent in school nurseries, and only 59 per cent had at least one graduate on the staff, whereas all school nurseries did.
The coalition government announced earlier this year that it had earmarked £5 million for schools to work with local PVI nurseries and it has introduced the graduate-level early years teacher qualification. Teach First, which works with schools in low-income areas, has said it will provide 82 early years teacher places from September 2015.
The National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) has welcomed the report but says that the work of PVI nurseries should not be underestimated.
Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of the NDNA, said: “Eighty-six per cent of English settings are currently rated good or outstanding by Ofsted, a higher proportion than for schools or colleges. That makes us a real stand-out sector.
“To suggest that nurseries are lacking quality in terms of early years education is unfair. Despite a chronic funding shortfall, nurseries already make a huge educational difference – particularly for underprivileged children. Internationally-respected research has underlined this.”
Gareth Jenkins, director of UK poverty for charity Save the Children, said: "We believe the next government must prioritise investment in quality nursery care if we are to give every child a chance to lead a life free of poverty and full of potential.
"The new IFS research released today shows that those who leave primary school able to read well earn much more as adults many decades later."
Countryside is no rural idyll for pupil premium children – 28 November, 2014
Campaign to end ‘shameful’ reading gap in primary schools – 8 September, 2014
Get into their good books – 26 April, 2013