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MEP learning pack

Masters in Educational Practice: Child and adolescent development 0-19


Literacy and numeracy development


Literacy development

Uta Frith outlined the following stage model for the development of literacy.

Figure 1: Stage model for the development of literacy

Frith, U. (1985). Beneath the surface of developmental dyslexia. In K.E. Patterson, J. C. Marshall & M. Coltheart (Eds.), Surface dyslexia, London: Erlbaum.


  • Remember that there elements of literacy in all aspects of the school curriculum. Think about the level of literacy skills required for science, mathematics, technology.
  • Think about how you might differentiate the work you set your learners to help those who you think do not have the necessary literacy skill level to undertake that work.

Literacy developmental milestones in school

The following includes behaviours related to literacy development at different ages.

4 years

  • Uses correct grammar most of the time
  • Can recognise rhymes
  • Can sit and listen to a story for five minutes
  • Infantile substitutions in speech
  • Understands number/space concepts, e.g. on/over/under.

5 years

  • Engages appropriately in conversations
  • Uses ‘would’ or ‘could’ appropriately
  • Able to identify and name all uppercase and lowercase letters
  • Uses sentences containing at least seven or eight words
  • Uses past tense more consistently
  • Describes objects
  • Speech fluent with few infantile substitutions.

6 years

  • Talks fluently
  • Can understand more complex grammatical rules
  • Can read and write to some degree
  • Can learn how to do things through the use of language
  • Can use language to work through scenarios and problems.

7 years

  • Can describe points of similarity between two objects
  • Should understand opposite analogies easily (e.g. black-white, big-small, beginning-end)
  • Should be able to read aloud to some extent
  • Able to use an increasing number of words and understand more concepts.

8 years

  • Can converse at an almost adult level
  • Can read with confidence and fluency
  • Reading may be a major interest
  • Can use complex sentences with ease
  • Has established all sounds used in speech
  • Has control over aspects of reading aloud such as rate, pitch and volume
  • Can follow more complex commands.

9–10 years

  • Likes to talk and share ideas
  • Reads to learn (rather than learning to read).


Think about how the lesson you plan meets the literacy developmental needs of your learners.

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