A new survey says that young children in Britain are starting nursery school unable to speak and listen properly because of continuous noise and poor conversation at home.
Education watchdog Ofsted said constantly switched on televisions, noisy brothers and sisters and raised voices are increasingly hampering children's language skills.
AdvertisementThe study, on how the best schools teach children to read, says some schools report spending days or weeks educating parents and improving children's social skills.
In some cases, children arrive at nursery still in nappies and with dummies in their mouths.
Ofsted said: "The majority of the schools visited that had nursery classes commented that, increasingly, children joined unprepared for learning and with poor listening and speaking skills.
"Lack of preparation extended to children arriving who had not been toilet-trained and children with dummies in their mouths.
"In these cases, the onus rested with parents or carers but staff still had to invest time in the early days or weeks in educating parents, reducing children's dependency and improving their socialising skills."
The study adds: "The schools attributed weak listening skills not only to poor conversation in the home but, very often, also to continuous background noise, such as constant television, the noise of siblings and raised voices, which are bound to dull sensitivity to the nuances of sounds."
The report adds that in some cases, children's speech was limited to phrases such as "me want ..." and many of the youngsters had "been no further from home than the nearest shopping centre".
To rectify the situation, nurseries focus on increasing vocabulary and using sentences and make sure days are structured "to compensate for the chaotic home lives that too many of the children were experiencing".
Nationally, official statistics show one in five 11-year-olds leave primary school without reaching the standard expect of their age group for reading and writing.
Evidence shows that the critical time for children to become good readers and writers is between the ages of three and seven, the watchdog said, and the best schools are consistent in giving pupils opportunities to talk and listen to build their vocabulary.
Ofsted chief inspector Christine Gilbert said: "Despite some major initiatives in recent years to raise standards in reading and writing, the levels achieved by many children at the end of primary school fall stubbornly short of what is achievable."