The Canadian Council on Learning has released its first “State of Learning In Canada” report. Chapter Two is dedicated to preschool children and contains a survey of the research literature on early childhood learning and development. The research indicates that most Canadian children are born healthy and develop well, but disadvantaged Canadian children are falling significantly behind.
In fact, 1 in 4 Canadian children enters Grade 1 with learning or behavioural problems that could affect their future success in academics and life in general.
The report showed that 21% of four and five years olds from low income families show delayed development on a test involving copying and understanding symbols such as letters and words, compared to 13% of other children.
In a test of familiarity with numbers, 26% of kindergarten aged children from low-income families showed delayed development, compared to 14% of other children.
More than 25% of four and five years olds from low income families have delayed receptive vocabulary development (the ability to understand spoken words), compared to 11% of other children.
The National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth found that almost 90% of four and five years olds have average or better communication skills. The survey found that more boys (14%) than girls (8%) fell within the delayed range.
On a positive note, the survey discovered that a growing proportion of preschoolers are being read to daily by their parents or other adults (67% in 2002-2003, compared to 56% in 1994-95). However, only 58% of young children in low income families were read to regularly, compared to 69% of other children.
The report suggests that although Canada apparently has one of the most highly educated populations in the world, there are serious signs of trouble. It cites the 42% of Canadian adults with low literacy levels as found by the 2003 International Adult Literacy and Skills Survey (IALSS), and suggests
"There is no room for complacency with respect to Canada's literacy challenges. The stakes for this generation and the next are simply too high."
Encouraging children's emerging literacy skills, and the literacy development of their parents within disadvantaged families, is what family literacy is about, and is how the programs and services of the Centre directly address the literacy challenges facing our province and country.
View the complete report and findings at