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The Gaab Lab for Developmental Neuroscience

Boston Early Literacy Screening (BELS) (New!)

Reading difficulties impact the daily lives and academic success of tens of thousands of children across the United States. Early identification and intervention for these children has the potential to tackle reading difficulties early before secondary psychological implications, such low-self-esteem, can manifest. However, early and evidence-based screening for reading disabilities is not widely accessible, in part due to cost, lack of trained professionals and other resource requirements. Current digital technology provides a unique opportunity to leverage the affordances of mobile apps to support widespread screening for risk for reading disabilities.

About BELS!

BELS is a 15-20 minute app that uses a gamified, interactive storyline, to assess a child on six early indicators of reading issues. It is an easy, quick, accessible, and child-centered way to detect reading struggles in children prior to formal reading instruction. The screener is comprehensive, age-appropriate and designed to be self-administered.

A score report generated will indicate which, if any, competencies the child scored below the 25th percentile on and provide evidence-based responses to address specific deficits.

Validation Study

It is crucial that the screener is a true predictor of future reading success. A project to validate the app against traditional, widely-used paper and pencil assessments is in development. The validation study will include a large sample of preschool and kindergarten children, with a mix of socioeconomic status and risk for reading disability. Children will be tested in schools, community settings, and at the lab at Boston Children’s Hospital. Study visits will be no more than 2 hours, and children and parents will be compensated for their participation.

Detailed information about the reading competencies screened by the app can be downloaded here. If you would like more information, please email us at or call us at 857-218-4629.

We are currently in the planning stage of our validation study. To be contacted in the future about your child or classroom being part of our validation study, please email