Early Literacy Screener

Assessing children as young as 4 years of age gives each child the opportunity to reach their full reading potential.

The Early Literacy Screening app, being developed by the Innovation & Digital Health Accelerator at Boston Children's Hospital, in partnership with Dr. Nadine Gaab, will be presented in a fun, interactive way to keep children engaged for the duration of the 30-minute screening.

Once the screener is complete, the app will produce an overall score that measures the child’s risk for developmental literacy challenges. Links to evidence-based responses that offer teaching solutions and intervention programs (e.g. through instructional videos) will be provided to help teachers, parents and social workers address the needs of children deemed at-risk. 

Additional links to educational videos will further support parents looking for activities they can engage in with their children that have been shown to improve these essential pre-reading skills.

  Dr. Nadine Gaab, of Boston Children's Hospital

Dr. Nadine Gaab, of Boston Children's Hospital

The literacy assessments included in the app were selected based on previous longitudinal research studies in Dr. Nadine Gaab’s lab that examined early predictors of reading disabilities.

The app will be a cost-effective, mobile platform, accessible by parents, teachers, pediatricians or other clinical professionals, and will screen for six early indicators of literacy challenges, including dyslexia.


Healthcare Context

The Dyslexia Paradox

Development of basic reading skills is one of the primary goals of elementary education. However, children with learning disabilities are less likely to complete high school or pursue higher education, and are at an increased risk of entering the juvenile justice system.4,5

Common literacy issues, such as dyslexia, are generally diagnosed after the most effective time for intervention has passed. This paradox is detrimental to the well-being of children and their families who experience the psychosocial implications of reading disabilities for years prior to diagnosis.

Difficulty reading at grade-level can lead to low self-esteem, feelings of shame, inadequacy, helplessness and depression in children.3

Targeted interventions are most effective when administered in kindergarten and first grade, despite reading disabilities typically only being diagnosed when a child fails to read in 2nd-4th grade. Dr. Nadine Gaab, of Boston Children’s Hospital, completed a recent study of more than 1,500 kindergartners in New England and identified six independent reading trajectory profiles, including three dyslexia risk profiles. Research showed that these reading profiles are remarkably stable over a two-year window – allowing it to be a predictive assessment for a future reading disability diagnoses.




About 80% of those are from low socio-economic backgrounds.1,2



had annual incomes of less that $50,000 within eight years of leaving high school. Sixty-seven percent earned $25,000 or less.6


Pairing scientific research with technology and business strategy


The Innovation and Digital Health Accelerator (IDHA)

The IDHA at Boston Children’s Hospital is shaping the future of health care. The goal of the IDHA is to develop and accelerate digital health offerings that extend the access, reach and scale of Boston Children’s clinical expertise to improve the health of children worldwide. We’re utilizing our expertise and capabilities as the #1 pediatric research hospital in the world to collaborate with industry partners to build and launch commercially successful products, platforms and ventures.


The two main focus areas of IDHA include creating and executing Boston Children’s digital health strategy and accelerating innovations from industry and within the hospital through our Innovation Accelerator. The IDHA team is made up of over 50 individuals who specialize in mobile apps, web development, front-end development and business planning – the full mechanism for sourcing, vetting, resourcing, building, piloting and commercializing innovations in collaboration with others across the enterprise.

To learn more about the IDHA, visit www.childrenshospital.org/accelerator


Dr. Nadine Gaab

Dr. Nadine Gaab is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School and a member of the faculty at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her research within the Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience focuses on the brain correlates of reading development in typical and atypical children as well as possible pre-markers of developmental dyslexia in preschoolers and infants.

Dr. Gaab is a recipient of the T. Berry Brazelton Award for Innovation at Boston Children’s Hospital, is a member of the Board of the Landmark School, scientific advisory board member of The Dyslexia Foundation and a founder of the New England research on Dyslexia Society (NERDY). She is the recipient of various federal and private foundation grants and a permanent member of the NICHD study section “Language and Communication’ and has published numerous peer-reviewed papers on reading and dyslexia in scientific journals such as Nature Neuroscience, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Developmental Science and the Annals of Dyslexia. She is further a frequent speaker in the community and teaches workshops for parents, teachers and other professionals on dyslexia and reading development and is a consultant for various school districts nationwide.

To learn more about Dr. Gaab's research, publications and community outreach, visit www.gaablab.com 




April 14, 2017

A 30-minute screening test for dyslexia?

Vector Blog, Boston Children's Hospital
By Nancy Fliesler 


Contact Us

We look forward to hearing from potential investors and those seeking more information about the Early Literacy Screener!

Innovation & Digital Health Accelerator
401 Park Drive, 7th Floor West
Boston, MA 02215

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