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The development of reading in children from diverse linguistic backgrounds : a 5-year longitudinal study Lesaux, Nonie K.

Abstract

The development of early reading and language was examined in native English speaking children (L1) and English as a second language (ESL) speaking children who were receiving instruction in English. Patterns of reading development from kindergarten to grade 4 were examined, which skills identify those children in kindergarten as at-risk for reading failure from all language backgrounds, and individual growth curve analysis was employed to examine the influence of kindergarten language background (L1 or ESL) and phonological processing skills on initial reading ability in grade 1 and on the development of reading from grades 1 through 4. The participants of the study were 860 grade 4 children who were part of a longitudinal study that began in their kindergarten year. Within the sample, there were 728 L1 speakers and 132 L2 speakers. In kindergarten, participants were administered standardized tasks of reading and memory as well as experimental tasks of phonological awareness, letter identification, rapid naming, and phonological memory. At the end of grade 4, children were administered various tasks of reading, spelling, language, arithmetic, and memory. All children received phonological awareness instruction in kindergarten and systematic phonics instruction in grade 1 in the context of a balanced early literacy program. By the end of grade 4, the L2 speakers had attained reading skills that were similar to the L1 speakers, and even performed at a superior level to the L1 speakers on tasks of word reading, spelling, arithmetic and rapid naming. However, there were differences on each of the measures between average and disabled readers in grade 4, regardless of native language. The results provide evidence that language background in kindergarten does not have a significant effect on initial status of grade 1 reading, nor on the underlying growth patterns of reading, and that ESL speakers reading comprehension develops in a similar manner to their L1 peers. The results also provide support for the universality of reading problems, the persistent nature of the phonological difficulties, and the need for effective early reading instruction for all children.

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