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Predictors of English and Spanish Literacy Trajectories Amongst Early Bilinguals

Fri, March 22, 7:45 to 9:15am, Baltimore Convention Center, Floor: Level 1, Exhibit Hall B

Integrative Statement

One of the key skills of long-term academic success is reading comprehension. Studies of monolinguals have found that early oral language skills strongly predict later reading comprehension (Perfetti & Stafura, 2015). Ultimate academic success of bilingual children similarly depends on reading comprehension in English; but unlike monolinguals, bilinguals often have knowledge and exposure to two languages by the time formal literacy instruction begins. Despite the large and growing number of bilingually developing children in the United States, the early literacy trajectories of these children have not been well documented. The current study investigated the influence of English and Spanish oral language skills at 5 years on subsequent dual literacy growth from 6 to 8 years in a sample of 109 simultaneous bilinguals from South Florida. Specifically, the study conducted longitudinal multilevel model analyses to examine the within- and across-language relation between oral language skills at kindergarten and subsequent literacy growth up to 4th grade. For English literacy development, the results revealed that expressive vocabulary and general language skill in English at 5 years positively predicted reading comprehension at 6 years and that the rate of literacy growth was significantly faster for children with initially low levels of general language skill in English. For Spanish literacy development, the results revealed that Spanish expressive vocabulary and English general language skill both uniquely predicted Spanish reading comprehension at 6 years. In conclusion, the current study sheds light on predictors of literacy development amongst bilingually developing children as well as broadens the range of variables showing cross-linguistic transfer of literacy skills. Furthermore, the longitudinal evidence expands our understanding of how two languages develop and affect each other over time.


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