Every child in England will receive a free bag of books from the Government under a scheme to be launched next week.
Nine million books will be sent out to all children aged from eight months to four years in moves designed to get parents more involved in their children's education.
Education Secretary Ruth Kelly will launch the £ 27 million " Bookstart" programme on Tuesday, ahead of what was being billed as a major speech on social mobility. The scheme comes amid a major review of the way children are taught to read and follows criticism that too many pupils leave primary school without basic literacy skills.
Ms Kelly is expected to tell the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) that helping children when they are still very young is the key to overcoming class barriers. Speaking about the Bookstart programme, Ms Kelly said: "A love of reading is having a resurgence but we can't wait until the 'Harry Potter phase' to get parents and their children to share the passion.
"All the evidence shows us that children whose parents are engaged in their learning do better at school.
"Every child deserves the best start in life and there is no better time to get parents into the habit of reading with their child than when they are little."
Health visitors will give parents a Bookstart bag when their babies reach eight months old.
The bag will contain two baby books and a nursery rhyme place-mat as well as information on libraries.
For one and two-year-olds, the satchel-style bag will be designed for children rather than their parents.
It will contain two books, a library invitation, a scribble pad and crayons.
This aims to encourage children to take the first steps towards writing.
The final package comes in the form of a box for three to four-year-olds, which has "hidden" compartments for toys or books, and another pad with crayons.