P.O. BOX 2120

May 18, 2001

TO: Division Superintendents
FROM: Jo Lynne DeMary
Superintendent of Public Instruction
SUBJECT: Pre-K Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening

Early diagnostic assessments can be a useful tool to ensure immediate intervention for children identified as being at-risk of failure in reading. Using information from recent research, many Virginia Preschool Initiative teachers requested that the Virginia Department of Education develop an early literacy assessment that could be used to help guide the development of instructional activities to meet the needs of students.

The Virginia Department of Education would like to announce that, with support from the Virginia Preschool Initiative program, the University of Virginia has developed the Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening instrument (Pre-K PALS) for pre-kindergarten students; and has established a website for pre-k teachers that links the results of the assessment with suggested ideas for classroom activities and instruction.

The Pre-K PALS was field-tested by the University of Virginia with four-year-olds and targets the skills identified in "Starting Out Right," a guide to promoting children’s reading success developed by the National Research Council. This guide, a companion to "Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children," provides specific recommendations from leading researchers on how to help children become successful readers. The text is available via the following Web site:

The instrument assesses rhyme awareness, upper- and lower-case alphabet knowledge, verbal memory, print knowledge, concepts of words, and name writing. The assessment is not a paper-and-pencil test and is appropriate for the developmental level of preschool children. Activities on the website are grouped in the same areas assessed on the Pre-K PALS.

The practice item for Task 1, Rhyme Awareness, is included in Attachment A, followed by an example of a rhyme activity from the PALS website. Activities pertaining to rhyme awareness can be downloaded from the PALS website at:

The instrument will be available in the fall of 2001. The assessment is packaged in sets of 20 at a cost of $50 per set. To order the screening instrument, please contact the PALS website above, or the University of Virginia PALS office by telephone at 1-888-882-7257.

If you should have additional questions regarding this instrument, please contact Kathleen Smith (, specialist for early childhood, at (804) 786-5819.