Access to books at home linked to high literacy rates among children


Most Irish parents or guardians have at least 25 children’s books available to their children in the home, much higher than the international average.

The proportion of homes with more than 100 children’s books (33 per cent) and with a dedicated study area/internet space (70 per cent) is also higher in Ireland than on average.

Here, 78 per cent of parents reported that they had more than 25 children’s books at home compared to an international average of 59 per cent.

The findings were prepared as part of the recent examination of literacy standards worldwide. Ireland ranked 10th in the PIRLS International Results in Reading which tested fourth-class pupils in more than 50 countries.

Parental influence

Data from the assessment links children’s higher reading achievement to parents who like reading themselves and engage in literacy activities with their children.

The study also links reading skills to home resources for learning, attendance at pre-primary education and being able to do early literacy tasks (such as reading sentences and writing some words) when starting school. The findings back research which has consistently shown a strong relationship between children’s achievement and indicators of socioeconomic status such as parents’ education or occupation. Family income also has a powerful influence on students’ achievement in reading and mathematics.

Availability of reading material in the home is also strongly related to achievement in mathematics and science.

In the recent international test, Irish children with strong back-up resources – such as the wider availability of books – had a reading test score significantly above the national average.

Disadvantaged children

The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation said the findings showed the need to encourage parents to make literacy and numeracy priorities at home. It said the report confirmed the need to continue to support children suffering the effects of educational disadvantage.

Sheila Nunan, general secretary of the INTO, said it was clear Irish parents valued literacy highly and supported the work their children did in school. She said the State needed to ensure continued support for the Deis programme, which was delivering results in primary schools. “There are significantly higher scores in reading since 2007 and this report shows that Ireland has reduced the number of children reading at a low level,” she said.