Common sense and speed reading suggests that if your vocabulary is large you’d be reading faster and more. Now a US study suggests that the amount of talk between parents and children can predict their future achievements better than class, race or income. Frank Field, the UK government adviser on poverty, found that a child from a middle-class, stable family has on average heard 33 million words before it starts school. And that is 23 million more words than a poor child. (Obviously, he means the amount of talking, not the amount of unique words. English language has only over 1 million words.) Field suggests that poor parenting skills in deprived families lower a child’s prospects by the age of three. Field started a pilot schemes in Birkenhead to teach the art of parenting which will include a detailed ‘highway code’ agreement for parents, a ‘parenting curriculum’ at school and rites of passage.