Over the last two decades, a body of research has demonstrated that prior to formal schooling, children can be screened for their likelihood of developing dyslexia or reading challenges. These findings have the monumental ability to shift the educational experiences and achievement of both under-performing readers and the 5-10% of students who struggle with dyslexia (Siegal, 2006)
Avoid the Emotional and Academic Pitfalls of Failure
Typically, dyslexia is not diagnosed until a student has experienced reading failure, sometimes called a "wait to fail" model (see Gaab, 2017). The wait to fail model is predicated on the notion that students must demonstrate significant and prolonged struggles, over the course of months, before specialized and intensive interventions are put into place. A prolonged period of academic failure is extremely detrimental for students' achievement and their emotional well-being. Children with dyslexia show an increased incidence of internalizing anxious and depressive symptomatology (Mugnaini, Lassi, La Malfa, & Albertini, 2007) and are less likely to complete high school (Jimerson, Egeland, Sroufe, & Carlson, 2000).
Maximize the Efficacy of Specialized Interventions
In the wait to fail model, students typically do not receive intensive, specialized interventions until the second half of elementary school, when they have been identified as dyslexic. Yet, specialized instruction has been shown to be most efficient when administered to students prior to fourth grade (Blachman et al., 2004). A meta-analysis comparing intervention studies of at least 100 sessions reported larger effect sizes in kindergarten and first grade than in the later grades. Furthermore, a meta-analysis across six studies revealed that when at-risk beginning readers received explicit and intensive instruction, 50 to 90% of these children reached average reading performance levels (Torgesen, 2004).
Screening is Valid and Reliable
Identifying students at-risk for dyslexia, either before formal schooling begins or in kindergarten has been demonstrated as a reliable, and valid method for predicting later reading impairments (Catts, Nielsen, Bridges, Liu, & Bontempo, 2015; Ozernov-Palchik et al., 2016). For example, a recent study conducted with over 1200 students found that performance on screening measures in kindergarten and pre-kindergarten reliably predicted reading ability at the end of first grade.
Screening is Developmentally Appropriate
The foundations skills and characteristics which should be included in screening measures vary slightly at each grade level. Below you will find more detailed recommendations.
What skills should I screen for?
How can I evaluate screening measures?
While there is no one universal screening measure that assesses all skills required for reading, there are several tools that are helpful in identifying areas that should be targeted for intervention.