Children's speaking skills in decline

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The Independent Online

Some would blame the parents, others the Teletubbies. Either way, children arriving at nursery school have apparently shown a marked deterioration in their speaking and listening skills in the past five years.

Some would blame the parents, others the Teletubbies. Either way, children arriving at nursery school have apparently shown a marked deterioration in their speaking and listening skills in the past five years.

Three out of four headteachers who responded to a survey, run jointly by the National Literacy Trust and the National Association of Head Teachers said they were concerned about the lack of language ability among three-year olds. The headteachers pinned most of the blame for the decline on the time children spent watching TV and video games. They said this detracted from the time children spent talking to their parents, interacting with them and learning to engage in imaginative play.

Neil McClelland, director of the trust, said: "There is a concern here that children are coming into early-years classes less able to listen to each other and speak and we feel that is an issue we must tackle.

"I don't want to give the impression that all TV and video games are bad but I do want parents to communicate with their children more instead of just putting them in front of the TV and leaving them there."

He urged parents to buy spin-off books from children's TV programmes and read them to their children if they had shown an interest in the show. He added: "The right to be talked to and listened to should be the right of every toddler. Most brain development occurs between birth and the age of two so babies and toddlers need a quality linguistic environment just as much as they need nourishing food."

The trust will launch a £2m campaign next month intended to persuade parents to talk to toddlers more.

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