Get Ready to Read: Screening Tool

"Get Ready to Read" is a fast, free, research-based, and easy-to-use screening tool. It consists of 20 questions that parents and caregivers can ask a four-year-old to see if he or she is on track for learning how to read.

Because skills with sounds, language, and letters are so important, we encourage you to take a few minutes to use this tool to screen the four-year-olds you care about — children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, or students. We recommend that you screen each child twice, first in the fall (a year before entering kindergarten) and then again before kindergarten starts.

To use the tool, all you do is read the question that appears on the screen. Your child will answer by pointing to one of four pictures. When you're finished with all 20 questions, a score will appear. This score will show if your child's pre-reading skills are weak, strong, or somewhere in between.


  1. Don't coach your child. The purpose of the screening is to find out which skills your child has already mastered and which skills are not yet strong.
  2. Find a quiet time to use the tool. Set aside about 10-15 minutes to complete it.
  3. Sit side-by-side with your child in front of the computer screen. Give your child control of the mouse only if your child knows how to use it.
  4. Try a sample question. This will familiarize your child with how the screening tool works.
    GetReady_sample question.jpg
    • Point to the pictures on the page and say to your child: "Let's look at some pictures. I will ask you a question about them, and you point to (or click on) the picture that is the best answer. Let's try one."
    • Because this is a sample question, you may give hints and feedback to make sure your child understands the instructions.
  5. When you're ready to start, get your child settled and then begin. Read aloud the question that appears at the top of each page slowly, clearly, and word for word. It's important to say the exact words on the screen. Do not rephrase the questions or put them into your own words.
  6. Ask your child to point to or click on the best answer. Once your child has settled on an answer, don't change it. Don't give hints or second chances.
  7. Keep your child focused with these tips. If your child:
    • Wants to stop. Say, "We have just a few more. Let's try to finish."
    • Stops paying attention. Take a short break. Start with the next unanswered item. If your child is not able to start again, restart the screening tool at the beginning a few days later.
    • Asks for help. Say, "Try to do it yourself." You can repeat a question, but don't offer more help.
    • Says the answer instead of pointing to or clicking on it. Say, "Can you show me? Put your finger on it."
    • Points to more than one picture or changes an answer. Say, "Can you pick just one?" Click on your child's final answer.
    • Asks if the answer is right. Give a vague answer: "You're doing a really good job." Respond the same way whether the answer is right or wrong.
    • Answers too quickly, or points to the picture in the same position every time. Say, "Take your time. Look at all the pictures before you decide." Your child may be tired. Take a short break.
  8. From time to time, say encouraging things like, "You're doing a great job!" But don't let on that an answer is right or wrong. For example, don't say, "Good," for a correct response and nothing when the answer is wrong.

Start the screening tool

Are you ready? Start the screening tool >

Next steps

The following are some resources to help you continue developing your child's skills.

Literacy activities

The National Center for Learning Disabilities has created a set of activity cards you can print out. These cards relate directly to the skills in the screening tool — language awareness (look for activities coded with the seahorse); print knowledge (look for activities coded with the octopus); and emergent writing (look for activities coded with the starfish). The cards are formatted to print out on your choice of Avery postcards or regular paper.

The Get Ready to Read! website has a free interactive reading game called "Gus and Inky's Underwater Adventure." Gus, a character who is struggling to learn how to read, is the rabbit who appears on PBS's Emmy Award-winning show Between the Lions.

More early literacy activity resources:

Your school district

Your school district is almost always the best place to begin looking for help for a child. Federal law provides for early comprehensive screening of preschoolers. This service is available at no cost to parents. If the school district can't help you, they will refer you to someone who can provide you with an independent educational evaluation and will generally pay for this assessment if a disability is found that meets the criteria for special education placement. When you call, ask for the district's "Child Find" program.

Parent resource centers

Parent Resource Centers are in each state and provide answers to questions and one-on-one help to parents, particularly those who think their child may need to be assessed or need extra assistance.

This tool was developed by Grover J. Whitehurst, Ph.D. for the National Center for Learning Disabilities and its Get Ready to Read! program. The tool was generously donated to Reading Rockets by Pearson Early Learning. Many thanks to both organizations.

Schools, preschools, and childcare centers may want to purchase the print version of the screening tool and other related materials from Pearson Early Childhood.


You are welcome to print copies for non-commercial use, or a limited number for educational purposes, as long as credit is given to Reading Rockets and the author(s). For commercial use, please contact the author or publisher listed.


I think this screening tool would be very helpful for parents to determine where their child is concerning their individual level of reading readiness.

I thought this was a very interesting exercise. I learned a lot from this simple but informiative assessment.

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"There is no substitute for books in the life of a child." — May Ellen Chase