How to help your Junior Infant’s reading and writing skills

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School is well underway for the new year, and if you’re tackling school for the first time, you may be already worrying about homework and how to support your child in his learning. A key part of the Junior Infant curriculum is an introduction to reading and writing, and there is plenty you as a parent can do to encourage your child in gaining these skills. Editor of maternity&infant, PENNY GRAY, shares her advice on navigating this unknown territory.

This was all new to me this time last year, when my eldest child, Danny, began school. And I have to say, I was nervous. Danny suffered from glue ear and as a result was late in speaking – he was diagnosed with the condition and got grommets at the age of three, which helped the issue, but to this day, his speech is not amazing. He’s also a typical little boy, running everywhere and not that interested in sitting down and concentrating on anything for too long! While we read stories to him at night, he didn’t demonstrate any huge liking for books and stories, unlike his little sister, so we felt that learning how to read might be a slow process for Danny.

Danny’s teacher started with sounds and phonics, and didn’t get into reading until the third term. As expected, Danny’s progress was slow, and we worried about his lack of progress at times. But his teacher reassured us that every child developed at different rates and Danny’s progress was perfectly acceptable at his stage. If you’re at this stage now, my first piece of advice would be – don’t panic! Few children pick up reading and writing straight off, and it’s really down to practice, repetition, encouragement and patience. Lots of patience! Creating a calm environment from the start for your child’s homework will help tremendously, as will sitting down and working with your child in a patient and enthusiastic manner. Talk to the teacher if you are worried about progress, and ask what else you can do to support learning in the classroom.

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Another tip is to look at your child’s reading and writing books and see what approach the teacher will be taking to these skills. For us, it felt very different from our own memories of early school! Be aware, too, of early writing skills and how the child is taught to make letters – capital letters or lower case? How does your child begin and end letters? Seeing Danny form letters made us realise all the bad habits we learn about writing! Try when your writing something in front of your child to form letters the way he is taught in school.

Apart from the homework, there are lots of everyday things that parents can also do to encourage reading, writing and language skills. Try these tips from the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (

  • Encourage your child to talk about his day, his friends, toys he likes, what he’s been doing in school. Listen carefully and interact; try not to interrupt.
  • Play games that encourage language skills and spelling, for instance, I Spy. Use sounds rather than letters, eg ch and sh.
  • Enjoy reading books together. Draw attention to: holding the book the right way up, turning the pages, moving your finger from left to right, making connections between pictures and words. Ask questions: what, when, why, what if?
  • Set up pretend play at home: for instance, an office or a shop. Encourage role play.
  • Enjoy cutting, glueing and sticking with your child. Make a book with your child using words and pictures.
  • Help your child to make marks, trace and copy patterns; colour, draw or even try their own writing. Try forming letters with play dough or in sand. Help your child write cards or a sign for his room.
  • Draw your child’s attention to pictures, signs, letters and words when out and about.
  • Visit the library. Choose, look at and talk about books together.
  • Let your child see you reading magazines or books and writing letters, emails or shopping lists.
maternity & infant

Originally posted 2016-09-16 11:50:53.