A scheme to help pupils who struggle with reading could save the taxpayer millions of pounds, a report says.
The Every Child a Reader scheme supports weaker readers
The Every Child a Reader scheme could offer a return of more than £17 in the next 31 years for every £1 spent now.
The KPMG study said pupils who left primary schools in England and Wales with poor reading skills could go on to cost between £1.7bn and £2bn a year.
The research said there were costly problems linked to poor literacy, like truancy and poor employment prospects.
The Every Child A Reader scheme puts specialist literacy teachers into schools to give intensive one-to-one support to those six-year-olds most in need.
Research published in November showed children who had the extra lessons made an average gain of 21 months in reading age in 4/5 months of teaching.
The KPMG research found the cost of offering the reading programme to six-year-olds worked out at £2,389 per pupil.
"Based on evidence that such intervention will lift 79% of children who receive it out of literacy failure, the return on investment for every £1 spent on the programme is estimated at between £14.81 and £17.56 over the next 31 years," the report said.
'Value for money'
Jo Clunie, director of the KPMG Foundation, said the government and business and charitable organisations had invested £10m in the Every Child A Reader programme.
"We wanted to make sure that our joint investment was value for money. And this report suggests a brilliant return of at least £15 for every £1 we have spent.
"But this research contains another important lesson. Providing a child aged six with special reading tuition under the Reading Recovery programme costs a primary school about £200 a head more than they would have to pay out in providing special needs support later on.
"This means that primary schools need targeted top-up funding if they are to use this intervention. We are delighted that government is planning to provide this. It will save the country millions in the long term."
In his pre-Budget speech on Wednesday, Chancellor Gordon Brown offered his support to the scheme and he pledged free books for children starting primary and secondary school, to improve reading skills.
Schools Minister Andrew Adonis said getting literacy right in the early years had always been top of the government's agenda.
"We welcome the chancellor's announcement last week that the Every Child a Reader programme will be rolled out nationally, building on the excellent results we have seen already from the first year of the pilot.
"The extension will mean that 30,000 boys and girls a year will benefit from the programme by 2010/11, with special catch up tuition to improve their reading skills."