Using tablet technology in preschool and early kindergarten for the identification of children at risk for reading difficulties

Authored by: Sibylla Leon Guerrero , Ola Ozernov-Palchik , Michelle Gonzalez , Jennifer Zuk , Nadine Gaab

The Routledge International Handbook of Learning with Technology in Early Childhood

Print publication date:  February  2019
Online publication date:  February  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138308169
eBook ISBN: 9781315143040
Adobe ISBN:


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Reading difficulties impact the daily lives and academic success of hundreds of thousands of children worldwide. Early identification and intervention for these children has the potential to tackle atypical reading development before secondary psychological implications, such as anxiety, depression or low self-esteem, can manifest. However, early and evidence-based screening for risk for reading difficulties is not widely accessible, in part due to cost, lack of trained professionals and other resource limitations. Current digital technology provides a unique opportunity to leverage the affordances of mobile apps and portable tablets to support widespread screening in consonance with the developmental characteristics of preschoolers and kindergarteners as well as the needs of resource-limited families, schools and communities. By evaluating the seven strongest pre-reading predictors of later reading success, 1) phonological awareness, 2) phonological memory, 3) rapid automatized naming, 4) letter-sound knowledge, 5) vocabulary, 6) oral language comprehension and 7) family history of reading difficulty (dyslexia), a mobile screener has the potential to identify children with an elevated risk for future reading problems and enable access to follow-up resources as a first step of a personalized, evidence-based response-to-screening plan. We describe the three-stage app development process of a tablet-based risk screener from a developmental medicine perspective, as well as the clinical and educational implications of the widespread availability of evidence-based screening tools for identifying children at risk for reading difficulties.

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