By Richard Garner

London - Too many parents stop reading bedtime stories to their children once they start school, according to a report.

They drop the habit believing they can leave it up to teachers to improve their children's reading and comprehension.

The report, by the National Literacy Trust, claims that parents who stop reading to their children once they start compulsory education at the age of five are jeopardising their chances of success.

Research shows that children brought up in a home that continues to regard reading as a source of entertainment are far more likely to achieve higher reading standards in national curriculum tests.

During the first four years of a child's life, a majority of parents (53 percent) read to their children every day or night. By the time they reach the age of five to eight, this tails off to 37 percent. Between the ages of eight and 12, it falls to 21 percent.

"What is needed is some recognition that the importance of parental involvement in their children's reading habits does not decrease just because they enter school," the report concludes.

The research goes on to show that parental involvement in reading has a more marked effect on a child's ability than any other factor - including social background and class.

The report, part of a nationwide Family Reading Campaign mounted by the National Literacy Trust and the BBC, shows there has been a decline in enjoyment of reading over the past five years - particularly among boys.

Fifty-five percent of 11-year-old boys now say they enjoy reading - compared with 70 percent five years ago. The percentage of girls has declined from 85 percent to 75 percent in the same period. Thirteen percent of youngsters said they disliked reading - compared with an international average of six percent.

Julia Strong, co-ordinator of the Family Reading Campaign, said: "Sharing books together has so many benefits for families.

"Parental involvement in reading has more of an influence on children's achievement than any other factor."