Junior Infants is a key stage in your child’s development. At this level of Primary school, children take their first steps towards valuable literacy skills, vocabulary, spoken language abilities and fine motor skills for handwriting.
Pre-reading skills are essential steps that help your child become a fluent and competent reader, writer and speaker. These skills include: phonological awareness (which helps them learn phonics); spoken language and vocabulary; listening comprehension (asking and answering questions); letter knowledge (recognising that letters look different and starting to understand that they sound different as well); and print awareness and motivation (noticing and understanding that words are made of letters and have meaning when used).
This guide will discuss some of the ways you can help your Junior Infant develop their pre-reading skills outside of the classroom and highlight some great activity books for putting these skills into practice.
Supporting your Junior Infant with their pre-reading skills
You may already do a lot of activities and actions that are contributing to your child’s pre-reading development, such as reading to them every day and following the print from left to right with your finger to demonstrate direction, singing nursery rhymes or pointing out printed words in their surroundings. Some simple tips for helping grow your child’s pre-reading abilities further include:
Talking to and reading with your child regularly
One of the best ways for Junior Infant children to improve their skills is through copying the actions of parents, other family members and peers. Engaging your child in conversations and talking to them about what you are reading together will encourage them to use their growing vocabulary to interact with you, and improve their comprehension of sounds and words in the process.
Introducing the alphabet gradually
It can be overwhelming and extremely confusing for a young child to be introduced to the whole alphabet all at once—so many strange shapes, all with different sounds. Gradual introduction through phonics, context and time can yield far better results. You might encourage print motivation by spelling out your child’s name and helping them find those letters in some written materials like their favourite book. If you can make learning letters a fun activity, that's even better.
Using nursery rhymes and songs
Learning through song has been a staple in classrooms for decades and is just as helpful in pre-reading practice at home. Nursery rhymes, songs and poems are very effective ways of showing how to play with sound and identify sound patterns.
Encouraging creativity and story enjoyment
Inventing games and incorporating play into pre-reading development activities will prevent studies from becoming boring and tedious. Perhaps your child finds creativity through making up their own stories, or maybe they like drawing and want you to describe what they’ve illustrated. By encouraging your child to be creative and have fun with their learning, you can make the transition into phonics, handwriting and advanced reading much more enjoyable.
Finding the right pre-reading skills activity book for your child
It’s important to consider your child’s individual circumstances and existing skill set when choosing an appropriate pre-reading activity book. The letter knowledge and vocabulary of a three to four-year-old entering Junior Infants is likely to be quite different to a five to six-year-old who is just about to move up to Senior Infants. Some of the themes and development areas you should consider when looking for activity books include:
- Narrative skills
- Left-to-right orientation
- Print and letter awareness/knowledge
- Listening comprehension
- Basic motor control
- Phonological awareness
For some children, their development of pre-reading skills could be directly impacted by dyslexia and other learning disabilities, vision or hearing impairments, or another condition which makes reading, writing and speech difficult. Additional support may be needed to help them reach the reach pre-reading and pre-writing milestones.
The right pre-reading activity book for your child should therefore be dependent on their visual, auditory and motor control needs but should also cover a good range of skills in a child-friendly and accessible way.
Activity books for exploring visuals
The activities in this book are graded by difficulty to reflect different stages of development. It reflects a ‘learning by doing’ approach with child-friendly artwork and accompanies the Magic Emerald English Language Programme. Essential components of this book include visual and auditory discrimination, oral language development and reading direction.
A recurring character appears randomly throughout this book to encourage children to engage with the contents more intently. Exercises are tailored to developing visual discrimination, phonological awareness and basic motor control. Children will also develop directional awareness and reasoning skills.
Activity books for phonological awareness
This engaging book is full of exercises and activities to help children improve their phonological awareness for future reading skills with words, syllables and more.
A pre-reading skills book for accompanying core teaching from September to January, focusing on phonological awareness building in the new curriculum. It includes digital fairy tales and nursery rhymes that can be accessed by teachers on FolensOnline.
Activity books for overall development
This comprehensive pre-writing and pre-reading activity book encourages active learning combined with creative art to help develop those valuable skills. Activities are designed to target vocabulary, recognising sounds and word components, decision making and motor control.
With a focus on independence in learning regardless of your child’s reading programme in school, this workbook covers all of the fundamental pre-reading and pre-writing elements. Nursery rhymes and songs are the main focus to help children memorise sounds and words through verse before beginning formal reading.
This book uses fairy tales and nursery rhymes to develop children’s memory, phonemic awareness, motor skills, orientation and coordination.