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New Screening App Can Identify Struggling Readers as Early as Preschool

What if a short digital game for young children could help lower the high school drop out rate? That’s a long-range goal of a new effort by a team from Boston Children’s Hospital in collaboration with Florida State University, which has developed a 15 to 20-minute game that tests children’s early literacy skills and generates a red flag for those in need of extra support.

Called the Boston Children’s Hospital Early Literacy Screener, the new game is administered on a touchscreen tablet. Kids as young as 4-years-old do tasks geared at assessing their literacy skills with the help of on-screen cartoon animals. Those include touching the picture that matches the word that is said out loud, identifying rhyming words, and finding the picture that matches a spoken sentence.

Current methods of helping struggling readers are more “reactive” than proactive, says Nadine Gaab, an associate professor of pediatrics at Boston Children’s Hospital and the Harvard Medical School and the creator of the game. Under current practice, many children aren’t identified as struggling readers until second or third grade or even later, Gaab said, when their teachers flag them and, hopefully, begin to provide extra support. That means they miss out on a prime early reading intervention period during kindergarten and first grade. “We basically let a child struggle over a long period of time before we take severe actions and give them access to the help they need,” Gaab said. “What we are trying to do is move…to a preventative support model in early literacy.”

The game is targeted at ages 4 to 6. Gaab hopes the screener will ultimately help teachers who must teach reading to large groups of children. After a student finishes the game, the program creates a risk profile for that student and provides resources and suggestions for next steps on an online platform.

The game will be offered at a low-cost to schools, Gaab said, with the eventual goal to partner with preschools, libraries and pediatricians “so that every child has the chance to be screened and develop their full potential.”

Excerpted from “The game that can spot preschoolers at risk for reading deficits” in The Hechinger Report. Read the full article.

Source: The Hechinger Report | The game that can spot preschoolers at risk for reading deficits, https://hechingerreport.org/the-game-that-can-spot-preschoolers-at-risk-for-reading-deficits |  © 2020 Teachers College at Columbia University

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