Boston Children’s Hospital’s Early Literacy Screening App can effectively screen for early signs of literacy challenges in only 30 minutes and link to risk-specific evidence-based responses to screening.

Project Overview

The Early Literacy Screening app, being developed by the Innovation & Digital Health Accelerator at Boston Children’s Hospital, in partnership with Dr. Nadine Gaab, will be presented in a fun, interactive way to keep children engaged for the duration of the 30-minute screening.

Once the screener is complete, the app will produce an overall score that measures the child’s risk for developmental literacy challenges. Links to evidence-based responses that offer teaching solutions and intervention programs (e.g. through instructional videos) will be provided to help teachers, parents and social workers address the needs of children deemed at-risk.

Additional links to educational videos will further support parents looking for activities they can engage in with their children that have been shown to improve these essential pre-reading skills.

Healthcare Context

Development of basic reading skills is one of the primary goals of elementary education. However 63% of fourth-graders are reading below grade level and about 80% of those from low socio-economic backgrounds.1,2 Difficulty reading at grade-level can lead to low self-esteem, feelings of shame, inadequacy, helplessness and depression in children.3 Children with learning disabilities are less likely to complete high school or pursue higher education, and are at an increased risk of entering the juvenile justice system.4,5  The vast majority of working-age adults with learning disabilities – 92 percent – had annual incomes of less than $50,000 within eight years of leaving high school. Sixty-seven percent earned $25,000 or less.6

Common literacy issues, such as dyslexia, are generally diagnosed after the most effective time for intervention has passed. This paradox is detrimental to the well-being of children and their families who experience the psychosocial implications of reading disabilities for years prior to diagnosis. Targeted interventions are most effective when administered in kindergarten and first grade, despite reading disabilities typically only being diagnosed when a child fails to read in 2nd-4th grade. Dr. Nadine Gaab, of Boston Children’s Hospital, completed a recent study of more than 1,500 kindergartners in New England and identified six independent reading trajectory profiles, including three dyslexia risk profiles. Research showed that these reading profiles are remarkably stable over a two-year window – allowing it to be a predictive assessment for a future reading disability diagnoses.

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1.National Center for Education Statistics (2017). The Nation’s Report Card: A First Look: 2017 Mathematics and Reading.

2.Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, Washington, D.C.

3.Valas, H. (1999). Students with learning disabilities and low-achieving students: Peer acceptance, loneliness, self-esteem, and depression. Social psychology of education3(3), 173-192.

4.Mallett, Christopher A., “Disparate Juvenile Court Outcomes for Disabled Delinquent Youth: A Social Work Call to Action” (2009). Social Work Faculty Publications.

5.U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Special Education Research, National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2), Wave 4 parent interview and youth interview/survey, 2007

6.Cortiella, C., & Horowitz, S. H. (2014). The state of learning disabilities: Facts, trends and emerging issues. New York: National Center for Learning Disabilities, 2-45.

7.KPMG foundation Annual Report 2006

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