Exclusive: An increasing proportion of Australian children could be illiterate within the next generation without urgent action.

Head of speech and language at the Murdoch Children痴 Research Institute, Angela Morgan, said Aussie kids speech and language skills were the worst they have ever been and we are raising a generation of children who may not be able to read instructions or hold down a job.

Prof Morgan, who has worked in the sector for 20 years, described the rate of speech issues as at epidemic proportions and said the nation was in 電ire straits.

典his has gone beyond children with severe needs, we are talking at a population level now, she said.

展e will see more children who will be unable to complete basic tasks like reading the instructions to put together a BBQ or even read their medicines.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 1.2 million Australians have a 田ommunication disability and the majority of those affected are children.

Australia痴 literacy outcomes on the world stage are poor with one in five Australian children not meeting international benchmarks for reading, according to the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study.

Literacy experts said governments needed to do more but also recognised the digital age and distractions for busy parents were contributing to less time speaking and interacting with kids.

The issue has gained attention from the Prime Minister, who said improving literacy outcomes would be a key priority in the next term of government.

徹f course it will, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in an exclusive interview with News Corp last week.

的n the next term it is about rolling this (literacy support) out. Having made the financial commitment it is now about implementation and at the end of the day that is going to be school by school by school.

Professor Morgan, who is in the process of finalising a study comparing outcomes from 10 years ago to now, said without strong urgent national action Australia would be in 電ire straits.

鉄peech and language is tied to literacy outcomes because with speech comes your awareness of sounds and your metalinguistic awareness, Professor Morgan said.

典his is a national crisis and it is the worst it has ever been we are placing ourselves constantly below our peers in other countries with similar economic stability.

Professor Morgan said the federal government should be embedding speech pathologists in every school and also appoint an advisory panel of experts to address falling literacy levels.

Speech and language disorders triple the likelihood of poor reading, spelling and maths outcomes and lead to higher rates of school non-completion and restricted work opportunities.

The Parenting Research Centre found that up to 52 per cent of kids aged 0 to 5 are not being read to at home, despite the evidence of how important this is for a child痴 ability to learn and to bond with their parent.

Chief executive of Early Learning Australia Sam Page agreed action was needed now and reiterated calls for a national strategy on literacy.

的 think we are at a point where a large group of children are at risk of being left behind, Ms Page said.

展e have this small window of time to give children a strong start if we want to reduce disadvantage among the babies of 2019 we need to get strategies in place within a year. That痴 why this is urgent, the longer we wait the more children miss out.

Speech Pathology Australia president Gaenor Dixon said 兎very school should have a speech pathologist in order to improve literacy outcomes.

She also called for a national strategy on literacy.

Chief executive of the Australian Library and Information Association, Sue McKerracher said literacy support was not being taken seriously enough.

展e are constantly frustrated by the way early literacy falls through the gaps in political terms, she said.

And parents needed to be more enthusiastic about reading, Ms McKerracher said.

鉄ome parents feel embarrassed throwing themselves into a picture book, but pulling faces and using funny voices are all part of the fun of it. And it痴 not only helping with children痴 language and literacy, it痴 also an incredibly good bonding experience for parent and child.

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS TO THE LITERACY CRISIS
Read more with children ask them questions about the book, interact with them

Practice spelling and speaking more with children make it fun

Read a mix of fiction and nonfiction with children

Sing songs, nursery rhymes and talk about routine things you are doing to increase exposure to language

Limit solitary screen time

The federal government look to implement a cross-portfolio national literacy strategy that is consistent across jurisdictions

The federal government appoint an advisory panel of experts to address the urgent issues around literacy

Embed speech pathologists in every school to ensure speech issues are picked up early

Have two years of play-based early learning, particularly for those most disadvantaged in the community

. Improve teacher literacy standards