The development of Early Literacy and Numeracy begins at birth. Families and caregivers start children on the road by interacting with children and talking about the world around them. A rich play environment encourages the development of literacy and numeracy skills. It is important for caregivers and teachers to focus not only on how we talk to children and read to them, but also having in-depth discussions about what is read and the mathematical relationships in the world around them.

Early literacy

Literacy is comprised of skills in the areas of reading, writing, speaking, and listeningEmergent literacy refers to the set of skills which infants, toddlers and preschoolers should develop so that they may enter kindergarten ready to learn to read. In Iowa, those skills are defined in the Iowa Early Learning Standards (and assessed using Teaching Strategies GOLD). In Iowa, Early Literacy refers to the set of skills that kindergarten through third grade children must master in order to become proficient readers and communicators by the end of third grade. These skills are defined in the Iowa CORE Standards for Reading Language Arts (RLA). The Iowa Reading Research Center contains information for parents and teachers about best practices in the area of literacy development for young children.

The emergence of literacy begins in infancy when caring adults engage children in verbal interactions and shared book experiences. It continues into toddler-hood when adults and children explore favorite nursery rhymes and songs and adults talk to children on a daily basis about their play activities and routines. During the preschool years (3 to 5 year olds), adults continue to support language skills by talking with children about current and past events, and helping them to think about favorite stories that are read to them. As adults read to children, the children develop alphabet knowledge, phonological awareness and emergent writing skills.

Typical emergent literacy skills

Children have a list of early literacy skills that should be focused upon.

Read more on typical emergent literacy skills

Resources for families and caregivers

We have compiled a list of resources that are helpful for families and caregivers

Read our resources for families and caregivers

Resources for teachers

Early Literacy builds upon the skills which children bring from their preschool years. Children begin in kindergarten by identifying letters and their sounds and simple words in connected text. They are supported in their efforts to read and write independently, as well as to communicate with their peers. As they progress through the early elementary grades children become more independent as they approach literacy tasks. As fluent readers they can access knowledge, think deeply about concepts and ideas, record ideas and communicate ideas with others.

  • Laura Justice and Michigan(Essential Learning Practices)
  • Teachers will find this information helpful in planning a literacy rich curriculum for preschoolers
  • Teachers may find helpful information in regards to emergent writing skills
  • The Center for Early Literacy Learning offers ideas for classroom teachers and in home teachers to improve the literacy environments of the young children for whom they are responsible.

Early numeracy

Early numeracy represents a collection of skills that begin to develop during the pre-kindergarten years and continue through adulthood. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM, 2000) specifies that these skills include number and operations, such as one-to-one correspondence, and operational problem solving; geometry, such as understanding shapes, directions, locations and relations between them; measurement, such as quantity comparison and defining how much of something occurs; patterns and algebra, such as relations between units; and data analysis and classification such as sorting and using information to answer questions. Children must also develop a set of important thinking and reasoning skills. These skills include problem solving, reasoning, communication, connections and representation. Both these content and process skills are reflected in the Iowa Early Learning Standards, Teaching Strategies GOLD and the Iowa CORE for mathematics.

Data analysis and classification

Involves activities such as sorting and graphing and leads to children using information to answer questions.

Read more on data analysis and classification

Geometry and spatial sense

Includes such skills  as understanding shapes, directions, locations and relations between them.

Read more about geometry and spatial sense


Includes such skills as quantity comparison (more and less; -er, -est) and defining how much of something occurs (ways to measure length, weight,capacity, area and time).

Read more about measurement

Number and operations

Includes skills such as one-to-one correspondence (which means pointing to objects and assigning a number as you count) and operational problem solving (which means combining and taking away from sets of real objects).

Read more about number and operations

Patterns and algebra

Involves recognizing and understanding patterns in our everyday environment as well as within numbers.

Read more about patterns and algebra

Early numeracy resources

We have collected some resources to help you with your child’s numeracy

Early numeracy resources