Regardless of whether they are at a multi-denomination, denomination, private school or Gaelscoileanna, it is never too soon for you to consider how you can assist your Junior Infant in their skills development. Our inclusive, holistic approach to education in Ireland is something to be proud of and encouraging our Junior Infants with activity books designed especially to encourage word recognition and comprehension as well as oral language.
Unlike pre-reading skills which focuses on early development in key areas such as phonological awareness, print motivation and basic spoken language, skills activity books are designed to support the acquisition of literacy capabilities. These include speaking, listening, reading and writing.
This guide will discuss how you can aid your child’s skills development outside of the classroom, and introduce some excellent activity books they can work through in school and at home.
Supporting your Junior Infant with their skills development
The six key components for literacy skills development in Primary Schools are social interaction, choice, range of texts, time, feedback and explicit instruction. The Primary Language Curriculum requires that teachers uses these pillars to help young children on their learning journeys to become confident communicators, readers, writers and thinkers.
This strategy means that, in the classroom, your child's Primary School teacher will introduce them to a range of materials and experiences designed to encourage an active engagement with literacy learning. However, as their parent, you will already be helping your child build their skills through meaningful literary experiences in everyday activities without necessarily realising it.
By simply speaking to your child and encouraging them to converse with in their own words to express what they are thinking or feeling, you are not only improving their speaking and listening skills but also helping them to gain confidence. Regularly engaging in activities such as colouring and crafts will improve their fine motor skills, while singing songs and nursery rhymes will help with word recognition and comprehension.
The next logical step is to introduce books as part of their daily routine, most usually at bedtime. Reading a story at bedtime is not only an intimate, relaxing thing to do with your children but research suggests that children who read enjoy better mental wellbeing than those who don’t.
Reading and writing practice expands the vocabulary by introducing new words and sentence structures, and supports the existing skills programme in your child’s home so learning isn’t just confined to school hours. The presence of age-appropriate books and resources in the home demystifies the process of learning and means that you are fully engaging with your child’s educational development.
Finding the right skills activity book for your child
One of the first steps you should take when looking for skills activity books for your Junior Infant is to consult the Primary Language Curriculum. This will not only outline what your child will be learning in school but also highlight the keys development areas in relation to the rationale of school teaching.
If you are still unsure, your child’s teachers will be happy to guide you towards areas to concentrate on. For instance, they may be able to inform you of certain skills components your child is struggling with in the classroom that you may not have noticed at home, such as writing under instruction or making sense of different genres of text. Many families in Ireland speak two languages, so choosing editions in both English and Irish may be an option.
It is also important to consider using both fiction and non-fiction when providing skills activity books for your child. Non-fiction can gently teach your child the facts they need to know about the environment we live in whilst fiction provides a narrative, the joys of storytelling and a creative element. Moreover, as a nation rich in verse, poetry is not to be overlooked as an important part of your child’s learning both educationally and culturally.
Big Box Adventures
Developed by The Educational Company of Ireland, Big Box Adventures has been created in accordance with guidance from the Department of Education and Skills. This new concept for Junior Infants is ground-breaking in that it is designed exclusively to meet the needs of Irish primary schools, teachers, pupils and parents alike.
Big Box Adventures skills books encourage early literacy skills through fiction, non-fiction and poetry. They adopt a structured approach to teaching and feature literacy activities designed to develop word recognition, comprehension and oral language. The books support and extend the teaching of core books in school.
The Wonderland series of activity books unite a research-based approach to English language proficiency with fun activities and child-friendly illustrations guaranteed to keep your Junior Infant engaged and interested. The reputation of this educational resource is in no small part down to its popularity with teachers, owing to its focus on developing oral language and reading skills. It can be used alongside pre-existing phonic programmes.
Other skills books
The Over the Moon series offers a thematic approach to all elements of the Primary Language Curriculum through its focus on writing, reading and oral understanding.
This non-fiction branch of the Over the Moon series focuses on the real world, from sports to holidays, zoos, cooking, farms and holidays. It integrates Aistear and Jolly Phonics to develop reading, writing and oral language from Junior Infants to Sixth Class.
The Word Wizard series is designed to be integrated into your child’s existing core English programme. It uses a strategies-based approach to teaching literacy and is mapped to the Primary Language Curriculum.