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 they are 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.

The Get Ready to Read! Screening Tool, developed by the National Center for Learning Disabilities, is typically given in the fall of the year before a child starts kindergarten, again in the spring before kindergarten starts, and occasionally one additional time in between. 

Using the tool

All of the directions, questions, forms, and activities can be found in the Get Ready to Read! Screening Tool manual.

1. Look through the screening tool.

It helps to read through the screening tool right before you begin screening the children to familiarize yourself with the tool.

2. Find a quiet place to work with one child at a time.

Find a place where you will be able to sit next to, not across from, the child at a table, on a couch or on the floor. It helps to have a flat surface like a small table in front of you on which you can show the screening items. The child does not have to be removed from the classroom or home setting. You can use a quiet corner where there won’t be a lot of distractions. You will need about 10 minutes to complete the screening with a child.

3. Plan ahead to make the screening process run smoothly.

If you are in a classroom, family child care home or other group setting, you may want to tell the children who will be screened that they are all going to have a chance to do this special activity. Select an easy going, interested child to screen first or ask for volunteers. Be encouraging. Approach the child individually and take him or her to the screening area.

4. Prepare the screening area and gather the materials that you will need.

  • The screening tool
  • A separate answer sheet labeled with the child’s name
  • A pencil or pen

5. Complete the information about the child at the top of the answer sheet.

Be sure that you also fill in the date and which screening this will be for the child (e.g., first, second).

6. Place the screening booklet directly in front of the child.

The child should have a straight and direct view of the screening tool items. Be sure to only show the child one page at a time, by folding the booklet back, as you administer the 20 items of the screening tool.

7. Start with the sample item.

The purpose of the sample item is to make sure that the child understands what to do. When you are ready to begin the screening with a child, place the sample item directly in front of the child and put the copy of the answer sheet in front of you. First, introduce the activity to the child:

Let’s look at some pictures. [Point to the pictures in the sample item.] I will ask you a question about them and you put your finger on the picture that is the best answer to the question. Let’s try one.

Then, read aloud the sample item using the exact words that are in the screening tool.

8. On the sample item you may give hints and feedback to make sure that the child understands the instructions.

You may not do this on the 20 items in the tool. Give the child general praise after he or she completes the sample item. Say something like this:

You’ve got the idea! Now I am going to ask you some more questions. Each time I ask a question, you choose the picture that is the best answer. Just look carefully at the pictures and pick the one you think is right.

Once the child has selected an answer on each item, mark the child’s choice directly on the answer sheet by circling the answer that the child has chosen.

9. Then, proceed with the 20 items of the screening tool, one by one, in the order in which they appear in the manual.

Ask each question exactly how it is worded in the screening tool. Be sure to show the child just one page at a time. Circle the answer that the child has chosen for each item as soon as the child selects it.

Do not worry at this time about checking to see if it is the correct answer.

How to score the screening tool

1. As you are administering the tool, circle the child’s answer for each item.

You should NOT decide whether the answer is correct or incorrect at this point because you will want to move on to the next question.

2. When you are ready to score a child’s answer sheet, you will need BOTH the answer sheet that you used with the child and the answer sheet with the correct answers shaded to use as an “answer key.”

3. Place the answer sheet and the “answer key” from the manual side by side on the table in front of you.

4. Begin with Item 1— remember not to score the sample question!

For each question, compare the child’s answer with the answer that is shaded on the “answer key.” If the child’s answer is correct, place a “1” in the lower right corner of that box. If the child’s answer is not correct, place a “0” (zero) in the lower right corner of that box.

5. Count the number of correct answers by counting only the “1’s” that you wrote.

Remember…do not count the sample!

6. Count the answers again to double-check your counting.

7. When you are sure of the score, write the total number of correct answers in the box at the bottom of the page.

Next steps

The "What I Learned About This Child" worksheet from the Get Ready to Read! Screening Tool manual (pages 31–33) gives you a chance to reflect on what the score tells you about each child and follow-up activities to try. The National Center for Learning Disabilities created a set of easy, fun activities focused on building print knowledge, talking and listening skills, and beginning writing. You'll find these activities on pages 34–70 in the Get Ready to Read! Screening Tool manual

The following additional resources can help you continue developing your child's early literacy skills.

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.

Additional literacy resources

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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"Children are made readers on the laps of their parents." — Emilie Buchwald