October 2019 Significance of Early Literacy Screening

Dyslexia Awareness Month: The Significance of Early Literacy Screening

October is Dyslexia Awareness Month, an ideal time to reflect on the screening process schools use to identify students at-risk of having a language based learning difference. It is important to stress that early screening and intervention are essential, but schools often wait until students do not meet reading benchmarks, which can limit the potential of struggling readers and destroy a student’s self-worth. "Once children fall behind in the growth of critical word reading skills, it may require very intensive interventions to bring them back up to adequate levels of reading accuracy.” (Allington & McGill-Frazen, 1994; Vaughn & Schumm, 1996). Furthermore, according to the Matthew Effect, reading fluency may be even more difficult to restore because of the large amounts of reading practice that is lost by children each month and year that they remain poor readers (Rashotte, Torgesen, & Wagner, 1997). Thus, the longer you wait, the more difficult and expensive intervention will become.

A preventative approach can lead to greater reading proficiency, stronger self-esteem, and create possibilities instead of barriers for struggling readers. Studies have shown that it is possible to identify at-risk children as early as preschool; however, it is important to note that screening does not mean diagnosing a child with a reading disability at this age. Universally screening children upon entering elementary school can identify the deficits that cause students to struggle. “Deficits in phonological awareness, rapid automatized naming, verbal working memory, and letter knowledge have been shown to be robust precursors of dyslexia in children as young as three” (Gaab, 2017). Screening should include the assessment of phonological awareness, letter-sound knowledge, rapid automatized naming skills, vocabulary, and oral language skills. Weaknesses in any of these components are likely to lead to reading challenges and can be remediated by using a systematic and cumulative intervention wherein sound-symbol correspondences, syllable types, morphemes, semantics and syntax are explicitly taught using methods that incorporate all sensory modalities. Furthermore, data from these assessments will show that instruction, beginning with Tier 1, for these students must be taught from simple to complex using decodable texts before moving to leveled readers so as to provide emotionally sound instruction that will lead to automaticity. Providing high-interest books, exposure to more text, or using three-cueing strategies will not close the gaps for students with dyslexia, but will limit their success and future opportunities to succeed.

It is time to prioritize the use of preventative models so all students can be successful on their path to literacy.

Works Cited

Gaab, N. (2019, April 3). Identifying Risk Instead of Failure. Retrieved from Bold: Blog on Learning and Development: https://bold.expert/identifying-risk-instead-of-failure/

IDA . (2017). Universal Screening: K-2 Reading . Retrieved from International Dyslexia Association: https://dyslexiaida.org/universal-screening-k-2-reading/