General Info (K-3)


Think about the primary grades – what kind of child were you?  How did you learn?  What memories still stand out?

Most adults won’t necessarily remember the actual topics that they learned during the first four years of school.  Instead, adults might remember reading a book with a parent before bed, learning how to print their name, the class sitting on a rug for calendar time or creating a picture with one sentence describing it below.  That might be about it.

Would you be surprised to know that there were a lot of little components introduced that helped to piece together the moments of literacy that you remember?


As we all know, there is no standard “How to be a Good Parent” guide given to adults when they have children.   Sure, there is lots of advice on when a child should start walking, how many teeth they should have by the time they are 12 months old or how old they should be to start sleeping through the night but there still seems to be some confusion on what children should know before they start school.

Emergent literacy refers to the understanding that young children will sort out what print is for and how it works as they engage in experience and activities involving print language (usually before they start the first grade).  In effect, it means that young children should be exposed to print literacy as soon as they are able to watch TV in order to develop literacy skills. 

There are a number of simple activities that can be done to foster emergent literacy skills in toddlers, including:

  • Reading a book, with both words and pictures, before bed each night.   (Try reading the same book at least once a week.  Point at each word while reading.  Eventually, have them point at the word while reading so that they get used to how words create sentences.)
  • Make sure to create your shopping lists in front of young children and encourage them to suggest items so that they can see the connection between the word they say and the word written down on the list.  (Young children begin to understand that printed words carry ideas.)
  • Encourage young children to look at the words on the cereal box while eating breakfast and relate the words to the pictures on the box.
  • Sing nursery rhymes or similar songs (e.g. Jack Be Nimble, Itsy Bitsy Spider, Pease Porridge Hot); as they get older and start nearing school age, read traffic signs/billboards while in the car.

NOTE:  Mastery of some emergent literacy skills is not optional before starting formal schooling, it is essential for children to succeed in the primary grades.  (The same goes for early numeracy skills.)

Literacy development is important to the overall development of a child.  It is not only the foundation of them doing well in school, it helps with their ability to socialize, solve problems, make decisions and become independent.  Most children learn to read, in some form, by 7 years old.  Truth be told – waiting until a child starts elementary school to begin the basics of reading and writing will cause that child to fall behind.

In order to get a sense of what typical literacy development might look like, according to research, the following information has been broken into the early literacy stages followed by the first few years of schooling:

  1. Birth to Age 3
  2. Ages 3 – 4
  3. Kindergarten
  4. First Grade
  5. Second Grade
  6. Third Grade

(To gain a better understand of what the literacy targets are, click each of the age groups for more information.)


It is important to know that a child’s first years are a time of rapid learning and research tells us that babies have an natural capacity to understand numbers.  Parents need to play a key role in developing not only literacy skills, but numeracy skills from an early age. 

Developing numeracy skills early gives children a foundation for their learning and development.  It prepares children for daily life – including problem solving, budgeting and handling money.

It is important to understand that “numeracy” and “mathematics” are not the same.  While they both employ the same body of knowledge, numeracy draws on examining a particular situation and using the relevant mathematical understandings.  An example, in general terms, would be a family of four having to decide on a more economical internet plan – mathematics would be performing the calculations of that plan while numeracy would be adjusting the plan to the needs of the family based on how much data each family needs (e.g. to stream video, do homework, research, etc.)

Numeracy can be introduced early in a child’s life through the introduction of mathematics (math) by encouraging children to notice numbers, shapes, patterns, time, size and measurement.  Incorporate math learning into everyday experiences at the playground, shopping and at home.  Support their learning by giving them opportunities to talk about and engage in math situations.

For example:

  • Take the public bus – have your child look at the number on the bus and show them a route map to develop the understand of how to navigate
  • Go shopping – rather than letting your child run around while you shop, ask him/her which item to buy, point out the different prices and show them how to compare items
  • Cooking – have children measure ingredients or show them how many items go into a recipe
  • Budgeting – when it is time to pay bills, sit your children down and show them how you figure out who to pay and how much

Talk positively about numeracy and math so that your child learns to value it – even if you had poor experiences in school.  (Many students in school are not open to learning math as a result of carrying on the negative attitudes from their parents.)  Avoid comments like “I was bad at math in school” – this type of comment can lower your child’s expectations of what they can do – and replace it with a positive alternative like “It took longer to learn how to subtract but I really liked adding numbers”. 

Don’t hesitate to explain to your child that there were certain strands of math that took you longer to learn but there were some aspects of math that you enjoyed.   Most adults who had bad experiences in math at school tend to just remember “I hated math” but everyone has emerged from school with an understanding about math and numeracy that has been incorporated into their everyday life and that they actually enjoy.

Activities you may enjoy or are good at that involve math and numeracy:

  • Playing pool / billiards – measurement and geometry
  • Model building – measurement, shapes, symmetry and geometry
  • Magic tricks – number sense and patterns
  • Knitting / crocheting – number sense, measurement, shapes, patterns and symmetry
  • Exercising – number sense, patterns and measurement

On the other hand, if you really enjoyed and did well at math in school, avoid providing answers too quickly or telling your child to do it “this way” because that was how you learned it.  The reality of math and numeracy is that there are several ways to get to the answer and each individual needs to work out the method that works best for them.  (In other words, what works for you, may not work for your child and it is important to remember that.)    Encourage your child to talk about how they might work out a math problem.  This will help boost their confidence and deepen their understanding.

The following information is a tool designed to help parents (and educators) understand the progression in developing numeracy skills in children.  This knowledge should help parents (and educators) to choose and use activities that will intentionally build foundational numeracy skills in children.



It is important to note that the natural progression of each child should be what is considered and not necessarily the age given.  Children develop their own cognitive knowledge at different rates – the ages outlined are merely the suggested age ranges according to overall research.