Poor children in small towns and rural areas are lagging behind in reading at the age of 11, according to a study.
Nationally, two in five children receiving free school meals were not reading well at the end of primary school last year, compared with one in five of their better-off classmates.
But research published by charity Save the Children reveals high levels of variation in reading ability in different parts of the country.
The new report, Reading England’s Future, shows that the South East and East of England have the highest proportion of areas where poor children do badly, but the authors point out that all types of area are affected.
The document, published as part of the Read On. Get On campaign, maps the reading ability of children on free school meals across England’s 533 parliamentary constituencies.
It finds that almost 40 per cent of "town and country" constituencies and 30 per cent of "countryside constituencies" are in the bottom 25 per cent of areas for poor reading ability among children nationally. In contrast, just 20 per cent of urban constituencies are in the bottom 25 per cent and none of those are in London.
Dame Julia Cleverdon, chair of the Read On. Get On campaign, said: “Focused effort is now necessary to ensure that children from the poorest families and most deprived constituencies do not fall even further behind.
An earlier report from the campaign points out that by the age of 10, the weakest readers in England are seven years behind the strongest.
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Campaign to end ‘shameful’ reading gap in primary schools – 8 September 2014