Books and language win in the lottery of life

6th December 2013 at 00:00

Giving money to impoverished parents can improve early education ("Can $12K make children cleverer?", 29 November). But general secretary of the NAHT headteachers' union Russell Hobby rightly warns that success depends on the parent, who may be little qualified to spend money on what works best.

Related research shows that two resources largely govern outcomes - quality of teaching and home background. Both are lotteries. In addition, delayed capability in language is related to later failure and generally endures. Research also shows that the most consistently progressive environment for disadvantaged children is small schools where positive social and verbal interaction with parents, locals and teachers works wonders.

School failures who become brilliant entrepreneurs often display excellent communication skills. And a Birmingham study a decade ago showed that children whose mothers read to them for five minutes a day from the age of 9 months were better in all areas, not just language, on entering school.

Whatever impoverished parents' level of literacy, books do the work for them. I was born in the Second World War and rarely saw my dad but my mother was a reader. I was bathed in language and not money in my early years. We can solve disadvantage at the stroke of a pen - not on the chequebook but a bill for radical organisational change. Inner-city children need wholesome, community-rooted small schools.

Mervyn Benford, Shutford, Oxfordshire.

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