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Dublin: 4 °C Monday 27 January, 2020

International study shows parental need to help child literacy

The presence of study aids and an encouraged love of reading are helping improve literacy among Ireland’s schoolchildren.

Image: AN NGUYEN via Shutterstock

IRELAND’S CHILDREN ARE above the international average when it comes to literacy, an international study has found, the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) 2011 report has found.

The study monitored the reading habits and backgrounds of fourth year pupils in Ireland’s primary schools and compared them to children of a comparable educational level in over 50 countries.

Children at this level were classed as belonging to one of three categories:

  • Where there were more than 100 books in the home of which 25 or more were children’s books and the child had their own room to study and access to the internet, and where at least one parent had completed college and one had a professional occupation, they were said to have many resources.
  • Where there were 25 or fewer books in the home of which 10 or less were children’s books and the child did not have their own room to study or had access to the internet, and where neither parent had gone beyond secondary school and neither had a business, clerical, or professional occupation, they were said to have few resources.
  • All other children were categorised as having some resources.


In Ireland 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 percentage of Irish children who reported more than 100 books in the home (33 per cent) was also above the international average of 29 per cent. More than 70 per cent of Irish children reported they had internet access at home and a room in which they could study, compared to only 55 per cent internationally.

In total, 27 per cent of Irish schoolchildren were found to have ‘many resources’, with a further 71 per cent having ‘some resources’. Just two per cent were found to have ‘few resources’.

Those with ‘many resources’ had a reading test score of 601, while those with ‘some resources’ had a score of 560. While children who fell into the category of ‘few resources’ were found to have significantly lower reading scores internationally, Ireland’s percentage, at just two per cent, was too small a sample set to determine a scoring.

The top 10

Of the over 50 countries profiled, Ireland placed tenth.

  1. Hong Kong SAR
  2. Russian Federation
  3. Finland
  4. Singapore
  5. Northern Ireland
  6. United States
  7. Denmark
  8. Croatia
  9. Chinese Taipei
  10. Ireland

Responding to the findings, the general secretary of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO), Sheila Nunan, said that the findings showed the need to encourage all parents to make literacy and numeracy a priority at home. She also said that it highlighted the need to continue supporting those at an educational disadvantage.

“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.

Read: Irish fourth class pupils above average in reading, maths and science >

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Paul Hyland

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