Development of a Brief Screening Tool for Early Literacy Skills in Preschool Children

Sai Iyer*, Diana Do, Natacha Akshoomoff, Vanessa L. Malcarne, Kate Hattrup, Susan Berger, Sheila Gahagan, Robert Needlman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Preschool children develop early literacy skills (ELS) needed for reading acquisition. Screening for delayed ELS could trigger interventions to prevent reading problems. Objective: To develop a brief screening test for ELS delays, the Early Literacy Skills Assessment Tool (ELSAT). Methods: This study included 4-year-old, typically developing, English language–predominant children attending preschool. The ELSAT comprised 63 items relating to 3 main ELS domains and was piloted with 21 children. After we excluded items that were nondiscriminatory, 57 items remained and were administered to 96 children. Items were compared with reference measures of ELS (Get Ready to Read–Revised), and language (Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-4 and Phonological Awareness from the Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing-2). Within-domain reliability was calculated for each of the 3 ELS domains and item correlations between all ELSAT items and the reference measures were calculated. Results: A final set of 10 items was retained that represented all 3 ELS domains and that maximized correlations with reference measures. Cronbach alpha for the refined 10-item ELSAT was 0.868; correlations between individual items and a composite of the reference measures ranged from 0.409 to 0.617 (all Ps <.01). In a receiver operating characteristic curve analysis, a cut-off score of ≤5 predicted a below-average score for any of the reference measures with sensitivity of 90%, specificity of 71.4%, and area under the curve of 0.872. Conclusions: The 10-item ELSAT shows strong psychometric properties and with further validation may prove valuable in screening preschool children for ELS delays.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)464-470
Number of pages7
JournalAcademic Pediatrics
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 1 2019


  • literacy
  • preschool
  • primary care
  • reading
  • screening

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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