Although social background has a noticeable effect on a child's readiness for school, what parents do with their children, even before they begin to talk, is actually much more important.
Children who were taken to the library more often and owned more books at two-years-old achieved higher scores on the school assessment tests when they began primary school.
Parents who foster a love of reading in a child's early years are ensuring they get off to a flying start at school, according to new research.
Researchers discovered that although social background has a noticeable effect on a child's readiness for school, what parents do with their children, even before they begin to talk, is actually much more important.
They also showed that attending pre-school and having parents who taught them a wide range of activities had a positive effect -- whereas extended exposure to television lowered their scores.
The Role of Language in Children's Early Educational Outcomes report (published 30 June 2011) looks at how a child's very early environment -- before their second birthday -- influences their language and school performance.
"One message coming through loud and clear is that how a child learns in their very early years is critical for smooth transition into the educational system," said Professor James Law, Newcastle University, who was one of the researchers in the University of the West of England-led study.
"Although we recognise that traditional indicators of social risk such as material wealth remain influential later on, what you do with your child and how you communicate with them when they're under two is far more important than having a flash car or a detached house in the country.
"This is a very positive message as it gets us away from the belief that a child's educational future is pre-determined by standard measures of socio-economic disadvantage such as income, housing or the mother's education."
Good communication in early years key to success at school, UK study shows