Children in the first years of their schooling will be the focus of a reading blitz in new learning measures announced by Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

The program will target students from kindergarten to year three and may involve breakfast clubs and after-school activities such as parents reading to their children, or access to digital resources.

About 75,000 students across all grades failed to meet national minimum standards in NAPLAN tests last year.

This would more than double by 2025 without improvement, Ms Gillard said.

"Through this reading blitz, we want to make a difference," she told reporters in Canberra on Sunday.

Ms Gillard said 74 per cent of children starting school were at risk of not learning to read well, but studies showed that figure could be lowered to six per cent.

Federal Schools Minister Peter Garrett said all schools would need a plan to address the progress of their students.

"A focus on literacy will be a very important part of that process," he said.

The government would work with state and territory governments, and the non-government sector, to complete the national plan to improve reading levels from 2014.

NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli said his government had invested $261 million to improve the literacy and numeracy performance of students from kindergarten to year two, with the first 50 specialists in those areas now in the state's public schools.

"We look forward to seeing the detail in the commonwealth's plan and the research and evidence upon which it is based," he said in a statement.

Australian Education Union federal president Angelo Gavrielatos said an emphasis on reading would be one way to use the increased funding proposed by the Gonski schools review.

"What we urgently need now is for the federal government to sit down with state and territory leaders to agree on the funding for Gonski, so that the additional resources are available in schools from next year," Mr Gavrielatos said in a statement.

Ms Gillard said improving reading levels would give students more opportunities for their careers and also boost the economy.

"The evidence shows if you come out at year three not reading well, you are very likely to come out of year nine not reading very well either," she said.

"Which means you are very likely to end up an adult who never reads well, with all the consequences that has got with the jobs you can do and the jobs that are locked away from you."

The teaching of phonics, which involves sounding out letters to help students develop basic reading skills, is one of the measures to boost literacy.

Ms Gillard read Emily and the Big Bad Bunyip to 10 children sitting on the floor of The Lodge on Sunday.