The study, by Barrie Wade, reader in English and Education at Birmingham University, and Maggie Moore, senior lecturer at Newman College, also in Birmingham, is based on a continuing study of two sets of three-year- olds from a wide range of backgrounds.
One set came from a group of 300 families who three years ago took part in a one-off programme called Bookstart. They were given material which included a child's book, tips on how to share a book with a baby and details of how to join the library.
The other set consisted of children born at the same time who did not take part in Bookstart. In all, 57 three-year-olds were monitored . Two out of five of the families gave books a low priority, most of them non- Bookstart families. Only one in 10 of this group gave books as presents - they were more likely to give sweets.
Dr Wade said: "Babies have enormous potential. They need intellectual stimulus as much as they need their nappy changing and the right diet."
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