Early Literacy Research Library (ELRL) - Article

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

Iyer, S., Do, D., Akshoomoff, N., Malcarne, V.L., Hattrup, K., Berger, S.P., Gahagan, S., Needlman, R. (2019) Development of a Brief Screening Tool for Early Literacy Skills in Preschool Children. Academic Pediatrics, 19(4), 464-470. ,

Access: Institutional Access

Publication year


study description

Test development and pilot.

core topic(s)

Early Literacy

Population Characteristics


Exposures, Outcomes, Other

Language and Literacy Development , School Readiness and Educational Outcomes , Screening and Tools , Validity, Reliability, Feasibility, and Acceptability


To develop a brief screening test for ELS delays, the Early Literacy Skills Assessment Tool (ELSAT).


Early Literacy Skills Assessment (ESLAT).

outcomes evaluated

ESLAT psychometric properties and reliability.


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.

sample size

n=21 (children piloted); n=96 (children post pilot)


ELSAT Measure: 57 items (63 piloted) relating to 3 main ELS domains:

    1. print concepts and word awareness.
    2. alphabet knowledge.
    3. phonological awareness (letter sound association, rhyming, and word segmentation).

Measures for Reference Comparison:

    • Get Ready to Read-Revised (ELS measure).
    • Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-2 (receptive language measure).
    • Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing (Ellison, blending words, sound matching subtests).


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.


The 10-item ELSAT shows strong psychometric properties and with further validation may prove valuable in screening preschool children for ELS delays.


The findings are not yet generalizable to other populations, given that the sample size was small and limited to children attending preschool. Children from non−English-speaking families were not included. Further validation with larger and more diverse populations and longitudinal follow-up to determine predictive validity are necessary next steps. Furthermore, we used item statistics to identify a subset of efficient items, and some loss of generalizability may occur as a result. However, our choice of items in the final ELSAT measure was based substantially on content validity, by identifying an optimal set of items from a priori content domains that were also empirically supported in our analyses. Feasibility and acceptability of the ELSAT in pediatric practices should also be studied in follow-up research.