A new study shows early reading in any
language helps children learn to read English. The study, titled English
Reading Growth in Spanish-Speaking Bilingual Students: Moderating Effect of
English Proficiency on Cross-Linguistic Influence by Jackie Eunjung Relyea of
Harvard University and Steven J. Amendum of the University of Delaware. The
study found that children whose native language is Spanish and had early
reading skills in Spanish had greater growth in their ability to read English.
The study also found that children who
spoke Spanish and had stronger Spanish reading skills in kindergarten performed
better across time, and performed stronger than their Spanish-speaking peers
who had higher levels of fluency in English but less proficient in reading
Spanish. According to the study. “findings from this study highlight potential
interdependence, or cross-language influence, of Spanish and English reading
skills evident at a younger age than typically hypothesized.”
“Given that students with stronger
initial Spanish reading performance outperformed students with weaker Spanish
reading performance at the beginning of kindergarten, researchers should
further investigate the influence of Spanish emergent literacy skills on English
literacy achievement and development overtime.”
The study suggests that native-language
measures in studies of bilingual students’
language acquisition of new languages and literacy achievement and
growth may provide additional explanations for future studies. Since, in the
study, English oral proficiency in the fall of kindergarten significantly
predicted the initial level of English reading achievement but not rates of
growth, more information about language levels of bilingual students in their
native languages can be indicative of their future growth in reading-levels in English.
For parents and caretakers, this means that reading to children in any language
will impact their future in learning new languages in the future.
Jackie Eunjung Relyea et al. English Reading Growth in Spanish‐Speaking Bilingual Students: Moderating Effect of English Proficiency on Cross‐Linguistic Influence, Child Development (2019). DOI: 10.1111/cdev.13288
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