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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 November 2006, 11:17 GMT
Rhymes 'boost child development'
children playing
The minister warned some parents had lost confidence in their skills
Parents who do not read and sing nursery rhymes to their young children are to be helped to do so, says the children's minister Beverley Hughes.

Many parents understand how this early work gives children "a flying start" as they were brought up like this, she told a parenting conference in London.

But the importance of these techniques would remain a mystery to others unless they were taught, she said.

Parents will be able to get advice from a new parenting centre from next year.

Some parents already know that reading and singing nursery rhymes with their young children will get them off to a flying start
Beverley Hughes
Minister for Families and Children

Speaking to the annual conference of the National Family and Parenting Institute, Mrs Hughes said research suggested class was still a more important factor than intellect in how children achieve.

Differences show up as early as 22 months, she said.

"It is now clear that what parents actually do has a huge impact on children's well-being and capacity to succeed, both at the time and in future.

"Some parents already know that reading and singing nursery rhymes with their young children will get them off to a flying start - often because this is how they themselves were brought up.

"For other parents without this inheritance these simple techniques are a mystery and are likely to remain so - unless we act and draw them to their attention."

Nursery rhyme classes?

She also claimed that many parents had lost confidence in their skills as child-rearers.

Many wanted help in establishing the right boundaries, she said, and they would be able to get this from next autumn through the new National Academy for Parenting Practitioners.

The new academy would also provide support for professionals working in child care and early years education.

Mrs Hughes said: "Research and practical experience also show that the right parenting programmes can improve children's outcomes, and not just in the early years - but again, only if they are delivered well be confident and skilful practitioners."

The Department for Education and Skills stressed there would be no element of compulsion in the help and advice offered to parents and dismissed newspaper claims that some would be forced to attend nursery rhyme classes.

But the minister said she wanted to "broaden and deepen" the debate about the changing needs and aspirations of families.

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