top of page

Screen and Intervene (SAI) - Phonemic Awareness - from The Reading Hut will be a game-changer in education. Our company focuses on early detection of learning differences and creating customised intervention programmes that empower every learner. Our tailored approach ensures that no child who is screened at age 3 for phonemic awareness, and who starts school with phonemic awareness, will fall behind in school, boosting confidence and academic success.


Early Screening : Reducing Risk 

Dyslexia is a language based specific learning difference that affects reading, writing and spelling skills. It has a strong neurobiological basis. Genetic influence is estimated at 50–70%. Most children must experience failure before their unique learning needs are addressed. Until then, they are expected to learn in the same way and at the same pace as their peers. One of the central problems with dyslexia is its late diagnosis, normally not before the end of the 2nd grade, resulting in the loss of several years for early therapy. We assert that it is imperative to “catch them before they fall” (Torgesen, 1998). Early intervention is crucial for children at risk of dyslexia and early reading problems (Fletcher et al., 2019). Studies show that identifying risk in kindergarten (KG), Grade 1 (G1), and Grade 2 (G2) can reduce the risk of reading problems from around 20% to below 5%, depending on the quality and intensity of the instruction (Mathes et al., 2005; Torgesen, 2000).

Distinguishing children with dyslexia from those with other word-level problems is challenging, leading some to question the utility of the dyslexia label (Elliott & Grigorenko, 2014). There is scant evidence suggesting that different interventions are required for children identified with dyslexia compared to those with general reading difficulties (Miciak & Fletcher, 2020). An effective intervention for a child with dyslexia is also suitable for children struggling with reading and spelling who have not been diagnosed as dyslexic. Therefore, the necessity of the label is debatable. Additionally, if a child does not exhibit reading and spelling difficulties, can they be considered dyslexic? These are important discussions to have.

The wide-spread practice of delayed identification of reading and spelling difficulties can have tremendous psychological and clinical implications. Children with dyslexia show an increased incidence of internalising anxious and depressive symptomatology (Mugnaini, Lassi, La Malfa, & Albertini, 2007) and are less likely to complete high school (Jimerson, Egeland, Sroufe, & Carlson, 2000) or to enrol in programs of higher education (Dougherty, 2003). So although early screenings entail significant costs given the costs associated with remediation and the treatment of accompanying psychological and medical problems (e.g., depression, anxiety, and psychosomatic conditions related to academic stress), the benefits of early screening outweigh the costs.

Common practices for early screening of reading difficulties involve universal screeners or tests assessing domains where dyslexia may manifest (e.g., phonological awareness [PA], rapid naming). These approaches often do not measure the instrument's predictive power for subsequent risk, particularly for dyslexia screening in KG and G1. One predictive effort, the KG–G2 component of the Florida Center for Reading Research (FCRR) Reading Assessment (FRA; Foorman et al., 2015), includes computer-adaptive tasks assessing PA, letter sounds, word reading, and spelling, among other skills, to provide a probability of literacy success based on performance in KG and G1/G2 standardized tests. However, this ‘screening’ relies heavily on knowledge and letter use.

If a child who has had no instruction in letter names does not pass the screener, how can this predict their ability to learn to read? It can only indicate whether they have acquired letter name knowledge, which may be due to parental instruction. It does not reveal whether the child still struggles despite being taught. The screening only reflects existing knowledge. Our screening will  not only identify existing knowledge but also evaluate how they learn, explaining why it does not take just 5 minutes. To intervene effectively, we need to understand their learning capacity.

A dominance analysis (Schatschneider et al., 2004) found that three KG measures consistently predicted word reading, reading fluency, and reading comprehension at the end of G1 and G2: letter-sound knowledge, PA, and rapid naming of letters. These are tests of existing knowledge. We need to predict difficulties for all children before they begin learning to read and spell. Our role is to prevent these difficulties from arising in the first place.

Studies involving brain measures, such as electroencephalography or magnetic resonance imaging, have shown that the brain characteristics of individuals with dyslexia can be observed as early as infancy and preschool, especially in children with a genetic risk for dyslexia. A longitudinal dyslexia study in Finland, which followed children from birth until age 8, showed that early differential brain measures could distinguish at-risk children who later developed reading problems from those who did not (Leppanen et al., 2010). Additionally, several studies have shown alterations in white matter (the highways that connect two brain areas and enable fast information flow) in young prereading children who subsequently developed a reading disability (Wang et al., in press; Kraft et al., 2016).

These studies suggest that these children are stepping into their first day of kindergarten with a brain less optimised to learn to read. Why wait three or more years before we give them access to additional resources essential for improving their reading performance?

It is well-documented that phonemic awareness predicts future reading success. As educators, we must understand how children learn and address potential difficulties early on. Ensuring that children can isolate, segment, and blend sounds prepares them for learning to read and spell effectively. We can do this with all 3 year olds. They need no prior knowledge of letter names or phonics to get started! They do not even need to be able to speak. This makes SAI -Phonemic Awareness - a world first.  


Dougherty, C. Numeracy, literacy and earnings: evidence from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. Economics of education review, 22, 511–521 (2003).

Elliott JG, & Grigorenko EL (2014). The dyslexia debate. Cambridge University Press.

Fletcher JM, Lyon GR, Fuchs LS, & Barnes M (2019). Learning disabilities: From identification to intervention. Guilford Press. 

Foorman B, Petscher Y, & Schatschneider C (2015). Florida Center for Reading Research (FCRR) Reading Assessments (FRA) Kindergarten to Grade 2 [Technical manual].


Jimerson, S., Egeland, B., Sroufe, L. A. & Carlson, B. A prospective longitudinal study of high school dropouts examining multiple predictors across development. Journal of school psychology, 38, 525–549 (2000).


Kraft, I. et al. Predicting early signs of dyslexia at a preliterate age by combining behavioral assessment with structural MRI. Neuroimage, 143, 378–386 (2016).

Leppanen, P. H., Hamalainen, J. A., Salminen, H. K., Eklund, K. M., Guttorm, T. K., Lohvansuu, K., Puolakanaho, A., & Lyytinen, H. Newborn brain event-related potentials revealing atypical processing of sound frequency and the subsequent association with later literacy skills in children with familial dyslexia. Cortex, 46, 1362–1376 (2010).

Mathes PG, Denton CA, Fletcher JM, Anthony JL, Francis DJ, & Schatschneider C (2005). An evaluation of two reading interventions derived from diverse models. Reading Research Quarterly, 40, 148–183

Miciak J, & Fletcher JM (2020). The critical role of instructional response for identifying dyslexia and other learning disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities. Advance online publication. 10.1177/0022219420906801

Mugnaini, D., Lassi, S., La Malfa, G. & Albertini, G. Internalizing correlates of dyslexia. World Journal of Pediatrics, 5, 255–264 (2009).

Schatschneider C, Fletcher JM, Francis DJ, Carlson CD, & Foorman BR (2004). Kindergarten prediction of reading skills: A longitudinal comparative analysis. Journal of Educational Psychology, 96, 265–282

Torgesen, J. K. (1998). Catch them before they fall: Identification and assessment to prevent reading failure in young children. American Educator, 22, 32-39.

Torgesen JK (2000). Individual responses in response to early interventions in reading: The lingering problem of treatment resisters. Learning Disabilities Research and Practice, 15, 55–64

Wang, Y. et al. Development of tract-specific white matter pathways during early reading development in at-risk children and typical controls. Cerebral Cortex, doi:10.1093/cercor/bhw095 (In press).

Emma Hartnell-Baker has a proven track record of screening children for learning differences such as dyslexia using quick, easy, and innovative methods. Tech based SAI can  be used to also generate reports with risk factors and recommendations for each child, which are then checked by specialist assessors before being shared with parents and their education providers. This approach reduces subjectivity and creates consistency across Screen and Intervene Spaces. Imagine if there was an SAI Space in every community! Many of these screening options should be funded and free for children in the local area. 

Screen and Intervene (SAI): Unlocking Every Child's Unique Learning Code
Unique Tech Based Solutions from The Reading Hut Ltd

Emma Hartnell-Baker invites discussions about existing screening methods and how to improve them.

This session is On-Demand through PATOSS 

PATOSS stands for the "Professional Association of Teachers of Students with Specific Learning Difficulties." It is a UK-based organisation dedicated to supporting teachers and other professionals involved in the education and support of individuals with specific learning difficulties, such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD, and Asperger syndrome​ (Patoss Dyslexia)​​ (National Autistic Society)​.

The Different Reading Framework from The Reading Hut - Phonemies - Phonemic Awareness Mastery with Speech Sound Mapping
The Different Reading Framework
bottom of page