The Queensland premier is urging parents to read to their kids, as the government launches a public library story-telling program.

Premier Campbell Newman has criticised Queensland parents for not reading to their children.

“Only about half the parents are actually doing this 10 minutes a day of reading at the moment,” Mr Newman told reporters in Brisbane on Sunday as he launched a new story-telling program for public libraries.

“If you don’t read to your kids, if you don’t interact with them, if you don’t challenge those little minds and help them grow, then you’re actually not helping your kids prepare for the education system.

“That actually means that they will have difficulties when they first start.”

Science and Information Technology Minister Ian Walker cited a 2012 federal Australian Early Development Census showing Queensland’s five-year-olds were beaten in national reading tests by youngsters everywhere except the Northern Territory.

“They should have a vocabulary of between 500 to 5000 words – some of them only have a vocabulary of 50 to 100 words,” he said.

“Queensland’s not doing well at this at the moment.”

The state government is setting aside $20 million over four years to fund story-telling sessions in public libraries.

The Best Start program will also include a partnership between librarians and early childhood centres and a literacy toolkit for parents.

Opposition education spokesman Anthony Lynham said the government was announcing a former Labor program that the Liberal National Party axed soon after its 2012 election win.

“They will rebadge the former Labor government’s policies which they cut, and reannounce them as their own,” he said in a statement, adding Education Minister John Paul Langbroek had described the previous Flying Start program as “a good media opportunity”.