Tools for screening preschool literacy

KindergartenTwo screening tools for measuring emergent literacy skills in preschoolers, Revised Get Ready to Read! (GRTR-R) and the Individual Growth and Development Indicators (IGDIs), are useful for broadly flagging children’s risk status, says a new study in the Journal of Learning Disabilities. Neither tool was “particularly good” at specifying the skills where the child was demonstrating a lack of progress, the researchers write. 

The 3 emergent literacy skills that are most predictive of reading ability are phonological awareness, print knowledge and oral language, according to the study.

“Overall, these findings indicate that it is possible to effectively screen preschool children with less-well-developed emergent literacy skills, who are at higher risk of later reading problems than children with more-well-developed emergent literacy skills,” the researchers write. “In general, the results indicated that use of the GRTR-R yielded more accurate classification of children into at-risk or not-at-risk groups with regard to their overall emergent literacy skills than did the IGDIs.”

The screening tools’ results were compared to results from a diagnostic measure of emergent literacy skills, the Test of Preschool Early Literacy (TOPEL). Diagnostic tests are too time-consuming and expensive to administer to all children and screening measures are a more economical and practical solution to the early identification of children who may need more help with their literacy skills.

TOPEL is based on the past decade of research on the development of emergent literacy and the final version was normed on a sample of 842 children that were representative of the national population, the authors write. The diagnostic test measures print knowledge, definitional vocabulary and phonological awareness.

The 2 screening tools were administered just prior to preschool entry to 176 preschoolers and TOPEL was administered 3 months later, just after preschool entry, a span of approximately 3 months.

The GRTR-R is a 25-item test that measures print knowledge and phonological awareness. For each item, the child is shown a page with 4 pictures. The test administrator reads the question at the top of each page aloud, and the child answers by pointing to one of the 4 pictures. The IGDI is a compilation of tests designed to describe young children’s growth and development, including expressive communication, adaptive ability, motor control, social ability and cognition.

There is no IGDI test for print knowledge. For this study, the 3 tasks that were chosen were alliteration and rhyming (for phonological awareness) and picture naming (for oral language).

“Brief, but accurate, screening tools are an excellent way for educators to obtain a snapshot of children’s emergent literacy skills,” the authors conclude. “Although there are several available measures of emergent literacy skills, very few of these measures are as simple and quick to administer as the GRTR-R and IGDIs.”

“Identifying Preschool Children at Risk of Later Reading Difficulties: Evaluation of Two Emergent Literacy Screening Tools,” by Shauna Wilson and Christopher Lonigan, Journal of Learning Disabilities, Volume 43, Number 1, pps. 62-76.

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