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The development of reading skills of children with English as a Second language Lipka, Orly

Abstract

The first study examined the development of reading, spelling and syntactic skills in English speakers (L1) and children with English as a Second language (ESL) from kindergarten to grade 3. This longitudinal study also investigated procedures for identifying reading difficulties in the early grades of elementary school for both English speakers and children with ESL. Reading, spelling, phonological processing, syntax, lexical access and working memory skills were assessed in kindergarten. Additional tasks were incorporated into the battery to assess cognitive and reading processes in grade 3. By the end of grade 3, the L1 and ESL normally achieving readers performed in similar ways on all tasks except on the spelling, arithmetic and syntactic awareness tasks. The ESL normally achieving readers performed better than the L1 on spelling and arithmetic tasks, however the L1 normally achieving readers performed better than the ESL on the syntactic awareness task. Similar cognitive and reading components predicted word reading and reading comprehension in grade 3 for both language groups. The results show that learning English as a second language is not an impediment to successful literacy learning, and may even be an advantage. In the second part of this study we examine whether the first language of children with ESL affected the reading, spelling and syntactic awareness in English. Seven language groups, Chinese, Farsi, Slavic, Japanese, Romance, Tagalog, and native English speakers groups, were compared in a cross sectional study. This study included all the children with ESL in kindergarten and grades 1, 2 and 3. The results demonstrated positive as well as negative effects in spelling and syntactic skills, resulting from the transfer to English for members of different language groups. Differences across language groups reflect the nature of the native language. Specifically, a positive transfer occurred when the L1 grammar system was more complex than the L2 grammar system. When investigating second language it is necessary to consider the native language and effect on the acquisition of a second language.

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