One in 10 parents of UK primary school pupils never reads to their children, according to a survey.
Once children start school, only one-third of parents read every day, the poll of 1,500 parents suggests.
The average time spent reading was 10 to 15 minutes and over a quarter of those surveyed admitted to skipping pages to speed up the bedtime story.
The survey was carried out by charity Booktrust and publishers Pearson as part of a scheme to encourage reading.
Parents in Yorkshire (49%) were most likely never to read to their children, followed by parents in Norfolk and Suffolk (43%).
But 41% of parents living in London read to their children every day, 35% of parents in Scotland did the same and 32% of parents in north-east England.
One in seven fathers never shares a book with their primary school-age children, the survey suggests.
Now Pearson and the Booktrust are giving out a free illustrated story to more than 250,000 pupils across the UK in an attempt to encourage parents and carers to read with their children.
They will also receive a guidance booklet on the benefits of shared reading, as part of the "Booktime" initiative.
Director of Booktrust Chris Meade said: "Booktrust exists to help readers of all ages and cultures to discover and enjoy reading.
"I'm sure Booktime will encourage families to make more time for reading together, and impact on the number of children who stay hooked on books as they grow up."
Marjorie Scardino, chief executive of Pearson, said: "We hope this will help teachers and parents kick-start a love of reading, which has to be one of the best starts you can give a child in life."
Education Secretary Alan Johnson added his support to the scheme.
"Getting more children interested in reading is something that is close to my heart. Being able to read well is the foundation of anyone's education," he said.
"But what's also important is the joy that reading can bring both children and adults throughout their lives."