CALLS for parents who do not read to their children to be fined have been criticised as counterproductive and unenforceable.

Viv Bird, chief executive officer of Booktrust, ­Britain's largest reading charity, said families should be encouraged, not punished.

Her comments came after calls in England for headteachers to be given powers to fine parents who fail to support their children's education. Sir Michael Wilshaw, head of English school inspectorate Ofsted, said parents who allowed homework to be unfinished, missed parents' evenings or failed to read with their children should be fined.

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Research shows that if a parent reads to a young child every day they will be almost a year ahead of their age group when they start school.

Ms Bird said: "Who will decide if a parent is reading enough to their children? Should parents keep a diary? What if the parent has difficulty reading themselves? What if the parent is willing and the child is not?

"We need to be supporting and encouraging parents to read with their children, not punishing them. If parents are helped to understand the benefits they will want to try and read with their children every day, but some may need additional support."