| Nov 08, 2007

November 2007 - Early Literacy

Back toHome

Early Literacy - November 2007 Do you have the time?by Susan Ramsay, Early Literacy Specialist, HFL&A

Second guessing our internal clocks is not unusual. When clocks fall back or spring forward to accommodate Standard or Daylight Savings Time, that shadow of doubt about what time it is can appear especially long.

To a young child, time is even more elusive. Some adults envy children’s ability to live in the moment, but young children struggle to make sense of ideas such as future and past. Children need concrete ways to understand such abstract concepts.


Have you ever explained time to a young child in your life by saying something like “Only ten more sleeps until your birthday!”? If you have, consider yourself brilliant. Your explanation dovetails beautifully with guidelines for math instruction described in The Kindergarten Program. This Ontario Ministry of Education document directs educators to teach the mathematical concept called Patterning by helping young children “identify and describe the repeating nature of patterns”. Morning, noon and night, as well as the four seasons are given as examples of the repeating nature of patterns that are part of every child’s world.

Time is mathematical through its inherent repetitive patterns. Fall, winter, spring and summer, for example, never vary from their cyclical course. Time is mathematical from another perspective as well. In order to understand time we measure it. One minute is 60 seconds long. A decade spans ten years.

If you’ve ever read books and stories involving concepts of time to your child, you are doubly brilliant. The Kindergarten Program again affirms that you are helping to lay a solid foundation for math learning. “Reading books aloud and in shared reading context provides real links between literature and mathematical ideas, since some stories use mathematical terminology… or illustrations of mathematical concepts. Reading can also give children a sense of how mathematics is connected with other aspects of life...” (The Kindergarten Program, p. 41)

Children as young a toddlers learn about time through playful books such as “Hey! Wake Up!” and “Pajama Time!” by Sandra Boynton.

Preschoolers learn about patterns of the moon as it waxes and wanes each night through the gentle, well-crafted story of “Papa Please Get the Moon for Me?” by Eric Carle. Children learn about minutes through Jill Murphy’s book entitled “Five Minutes Peace”. In this story Mrs Large, a mother elephant, seeks five minutes of solitude. She succeeds at finding 3 minutes and 45 seconds for rest and renewal.

Older preschoolers and primary school age children discover more scientific explanations of time through books that clearly link the measurements of time with patterns in nature. Non-fiction books such as “Sun Up, Sun Down: The Story of Day and Night” by Jacqui Bailey, “Sunshine Makes the Seasons” by Franklyn Manfield Branley, and “The Reasons for the Seasons” by Gail Gibbons are just a few titles with this focus.

Time and its observable patterns are part of every child’s life. As we talk and read together we can help children understand how--when we take the time.

Susan Ramsay is the Early Literacy Specialist for Hastings, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington. You can contact her at 613-354-6318 (ext 32)

Support local
independant journalism by becoming a patron of the Frontenac News.