Literacy experts are to give thousands of primary children one-to-one tuition as part of a range of initiatives to improve reading.
The Government will employ around 60 teachers who have trained in Reading Recovery techniques to work part-time in 20 urban areas with 4,000 children who are falling behind their classmates.
The Every Child A Reader scheme will cost more than pound;10 million, half of which will come from the Government and the rest from charitable trusts.
The scheme was described by one head whose school had used it as life-changing. Yvonne Daly, head of Flowery Field primary, Tameside, received pound;5,000 from her local council last year to help train Kath Viney, a Year 1 teacher, in Reading Recovery. Mrs Viney spent half her week tutoring four children, at a cost to the school of pound;11,000. Seven children benefited during the year because pupils are replaced as they catch up with their peers.
Mrs Viney said: "I was quite sceptical at first. But for some children it is undoubtedly a life-changing experience. It gives them the confidence to do things they see other children in their class being able to do. It is very intensive, it is costly, but it works."
Other reading-related initiatives announced this week by Ruth Kelly, Education Secretary, and Lord Adonis, education minister, included a pilot scheme where 200 primaries will test different approaches to phonics.
Early evidence from the phonics and the Reading Recovery pilots will be passed on to Jim Rose, a former Ofsted director of inspection, who will produce a report for ministers in January recommending changes to literacy teaching.
Ms Kelly also unveiled a pound;27m scheme where every baby and child will receive free books (see below). Lord Adonis said the initiatives were needed to narrow the gap between children from lower and higher income families.
The Association of Teachers and Lecturers welcomed the increased support for struggling readers. However, Mary Bousted, ATL general secretary, said:
"I would be interested to know why they have chosen reading recovery as it is very expensive and there are many other reading programmes."
Julia Douetil, national co-ordinator for the Reading Recovery Network, told Ms Kelly she had made a lot of teachers very happy by expanding the scheme.
She said the project would benefit more than the 4,000 pupils who are directly targeted, because primary teachers would learn techniques from the visiting staff.
But she was concerned that many children who lived outside the targeted areas would miss out on much-needed support.
* Schools and local authorities already use their budgets to pay for at least 5,000 six-year-olds to receive Reading Recovery.
* The courses' cost can vary from pound;1,000 to more than pound;2,500 per pupil
* Children receive intensive daily half-hour sessions which build on what they can already read.
* The Conservative government gave grants to Reading Recovery programmes in the early 1990s but discontinued funding in 1995.
* Reading Recovery programmes were first developed in New Zealand and last until pupils catch up with their classmates, usually 12 to 20 weeks.
* Around 70 per cent of pupils who have been on the programme in the UK reach level 4 or above in tests at 11.
* When The TES asked readers which policies they wanted politicians to promote, more than 100 primary teachers wrote in favour of Reading Recovery.