On a very narrow top level, it’s a good idea. Want to improve the literacy rates and communication skills of children? Involve the entire community. It takes a village, and all that.
Except this village is likely to be found in out-of-town shops. And not all of them, just a couple.
This is where the problems begin.
Last week Westminster’s Children and Families minister Nadhim Zahawi launched his bold new strategy. In the teeth of some damning statistics – a recent Oxford University Press study showed more than 40 per cent of five and six-year-olds did not have a large enough vocabulary to do well in school and a Nielsen Book Research study last year found that only half of pre-school aged children are being read to on a daily basis – Zahawi decided to do something. So he signed up Clarks shoe shops and a few WH Smiths.
Clarks staff are receiving training in children’s speech, language and communication development. The intention, said Zahawi, is to help parents kickstart this early development “helping to take forward our national mission to boost children’s early development”.
He is thinking, he says, of parents “who have low confidence in their own abilities, it can be overwhelming to know where to start with supporting children’s learning at home before they start school”.