UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Growth trajectories of literacy skills for EAL children from second through seventh grades Low, Pauline


There is ongoing debate among researchers and educators regarding the utility of English L1 practices for English-as-an-Additional-Language (EAL) learners who are in need of special education services. The identification of reading disability for EAL children is often delayed because relatively little is known about how EAL learners develop to be competent readers. This study sought to address this by providing descriptions of how children grow in their literacy skills and what predicts successful acquisition of these skills. This longitudinal study followed 773 L1 and 182 EAL children from grades 2 through 7. Multi-group latent growth analyses provided compelling evidence for common developmental models for L1 and EAL in word recognition, word reading fluency, decoding, decoding fluency, reading comprehension, and spelling. Phonological processing, syntactic awareness, and verbal working memory were important predictors of growth for children from both language groups. Growth models also show that poor readers from both language groups continued to be behind normally achieving peers. For poor readers, growth in word recognition, word reading fluency, decoding, decoding fluency, and reading comprehension was characterized by a persistent deficit model. In contrast, there was a cumulative deficit for spelling. That is, poor readers started out with poor spelling skills and progressed at a slower rate than normally achieving readers, thus widening the gap over time. Poor readers, as a group, also demonstrated weaknesses across phonological processing, syntactic awareness, and verbal working memory. Overall, the results of this study highlight the importance of early services and assessment for all children at risk for reading disability, regardless of first language status.

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