Contributors to English reading comprehension of linguistically diverse learners across the K-12 years

Contributors to English reading comprehension of linguistically diverse learners across the K-12 years

First Author: Jeannette Mancilla-Martinez -- Vanderbilt University
Keywords: Reading comprehension, English Language Learners (ELL), Linguistic Comprehension, socioeconomic status, Grades K-12
Abstract / Summary: 

The consequences of compromised reading comprehension during the school-age years can be far-reaching. Among children from linguistically diverse homes in the U.S., nativity, English language proficiency, and socioeconomic status emerge as commonplace, interrelated factors that contribute to a profile of reading comprehension struggle. This symposium spans the K-12 school years and centers on better understanding contributors of English reading comprehension among this growing population in an effort to better support their academic needs. The studies draw on primary and secondary data, utilize cross-sectional and longitudinal designs, and focus on both bilingual and English-only instructional contexts. Greenfader and Miller investigate the roles of nativity and parental involvement, Yuuko et al. address Spanish-English cross-linguistic influences, Hwang et al. problematize the conceptualization of language comprehension, Kieffer underscores the stubborn influence of socioeconomic status, and Townsend et al. offer insight into instructional approaches that best support students independent of their level of English proficiency.

Symposium Papers: 

How parental involvement in school relates to the early reading abilities of Latino children of immigrants

First Author/Chair:Christa Mulker Greenfader -- California State University, Fullerton
Additional authors/chairs: 
Elizabeth Miller

Purpose: One-quarter of U.S. children have at least one parent who is an immigrant, the majority from Latin American countries. Yet, there are different patterns of school involvement between immigrant and native-born parents. Turney & Kao (2009) found that, compared with native-born parents, immigrants are less likely to be involved at school and report more barriers. The current study extends this line of research using more recent data to examine predictors of and barriers to parental school involvement and how such involvement relates to the early elementary reading skills of Latino children of immigrants.

Method: Using data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2010-11 (Latino children: n = 4,220), we employed logistic regressions to examine the reported barriers to parental school involvement. We used multiple regressions to predict: (1) parental school involvement between immigrants and natives; and (2) the impact of such involvement on K-2 reading scores, controlling for SES. Parental school involvement is an index of parent-reported activities in school, barriers are treated both individually and collectively, and K-2 IRT reading scores are used.

Results: Preliminary results indicate the current study replicates the results of Turney & Kao. Additionally, as parental school involvement is associated with higher student achievement, parental involvement predicts the K-2 reading skills of Latino children of immigrants, over and above SES.

Conclusions: Many Latino immigrant parents face obstacles that prevent or limit their participation in their children’s schools. Our results underscore the importance of parental involvement for Latino children’s early reading abilities.

Predicting English and Spanish reading comprehension: Spanish-English dual language learners

First Author/Chair:Yuuko Uchikoshi -- University of California, Davis
Additional authors/chairs: 
Siwei Liu; Lu Yang; Mayu Lindblad

Purpose: This study aims to examine whether English and Spanish word reading are two separate but correlated constructs and how word reading, along with English and Spanish oral proficiency, predict reading comprehension in both English and Spanish in Spanish-English second grade dual language learners enrolled in Spanish-English transitional bilingual programs.

Method: A total of 81 children whose home languages were Spanish, who were from families with low socio-economic status, and who were enrolled in Spanish-English transitional bilingual programs in an urban school district participated in the study.  Children were assessed in Spanish and English with corresponding measures of expressive and receptive vocabulary (using the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test and Woodcock Johnson), listening comprehension (Woodcock Johnson), word reading (letter word identification and word attack subtests in Woodcock Johnson), and reading comprehension (passage comprehension subtest in Woodcock Johnson) in the spring of second grade.

Results: Confirmatory factor analysis revealed that for both oral language and word reading, English and Spanish variables were distinct, but correlated factors. Structural equation modeling results show that only English oral language and English word reading predicted English reading comprehension. Spanish reading comprehension was predicted by both oral language word reading in both Spanish and English. However, the coefficient for English oral language was negative.

Conclusions: Despite the fact that word reading in English and Spanish appear to be represented by two separate factors, English word reading appears to have a cross-language effect on Spanish reading comprehension. Implications for classroom pedagogies and home language practices will be discussed.

Early elementary grade dual language learners from Spanish-speaking homes struggling with English reading comprehension: The dormant role of language skills

First Author/Chair:Jin Kyoung Hwang -- University of California, Irvine
Additional authors/chairs: 
Jeannette Mancilla-Martinez; Min Hyun Oh; Janna B. McClain

Purpose: Given that dual language learners (DLLs) from Spanish-speaking, low-income homes continue to struggle disproportionally with English reading comprehension, there is a need for studies that reveal contributing factors of English reading comprehension for this particular population. This study examines contributors of English reading comprehension among first- and third-grade DLLs.

Method: We assessed DLLs (N = 73) on their English word reading and receptive vocabulary (English-only, Spanish-only, and English-Spanish conceptually-scored) in the fall of the school year. Their English reading comprehension was assessed in the fall and spring. Their language use and exposure in the home were obtained through a parent questionnaire. We employed descriptive and structural equation modeling analyses to answer our research questions.

Results: There were three noteworthy findings. First, the extent to which a gap between English word reading and vocabulary knowledge emerged varied depending on which vocabulary measure was used. Second, English word reading emerged as a robust contributor to children’s English reading comprehension. However, receptive vocabulary did not. Third, DLLs’ productive language use in the home may represent an important contributor to their English reading comprehension.

Conclusions: This study contributes to the field’s understanding of English reading comprehension skills among Spanish-speaking DLLs. Our results suggest DLLs’ low word reading skills may place a limit on their reading comprehension performance, helping to explain the insignificant influence of vocabulary knowledge (however it is conceptualized). Our findings also contribute to a nascent area of research by examining the role of DLLs’ productive language domain in the home.

Long-term reading development of bilingual learners and their monolingual classmates: Evidence from a U.S. national longitudinal dataset

First Author/Chair:Michael Kieffer -- New York University

Purpose: To describe the reading trajectories of U.S. bilingual students (i.e., students exposed to a primary language other than English at home), relative to their monolingual peers, across Kindergarten to fifth grade and to explore how trajectories differ when controlling for socioeconomic status (SES)

Method: This study uses the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, 2011 Cohort, a nationally representative study of students who entered U.S. kindergartens in 2011. From kindergarten through fifth grade, students (N = 18,152) were assessed longitudinally in reading on nine occasions. Bilingual status was based on parent report of a primary language other than English in Kindergarten. SES was a composite of parent income, education, and occupational status. Piecewise growth modeling was used to model their non-linear reading growth as a function of bilingual status and SES.

Results: Bilinguals entered kindergarten with moderately lower reading than monolinguals (d = 0.48). Bilinguals demonstrated faster growth than monolinguals across kindergarten to third grade, but remained moderately lower through fifth grade (d = 0.39). Controlling for SES, differences were smaller in kindergarten (d = .17) and narrow to a trivial magnitude by fifth grade (d = 0.02).    

Conclusions: Consistent with analyses of earlier national datasets (e.g., Kieffer, 2011), bilingual learners fail to catch up with national averages, but do converge with their peers from similar SES backgrounds. This suggests the importance of understanding low SES as a fundamental risk factor for U.S. bilinguals.

Long Term English Learners’ vocabulary and reading comprehension: Supporting growth and closing gaps

First Author/Chair:Dianna Townsend -- University of Nevada, Reno
Additional authors/chairs: 
Amy Crosson; Lizeth Lizarraga-Duenas; Lisa Johnson

Purpose: Efforts to accelerate English proficiency and academic language for adolescent long term English learners (LTELs) are very much needed. The purpose of the current study was to compare two different instructional approaches to reading comprehension, and to compare responses to instruction based on levels of English proficiency.

Method: LTELs (N = 55) participated in three different instructional conditions, each of which included three information texts and experimenter-designed comprehension measures, to support reading comprehension in English. The first instructional condition was the control condition; no support was provided. The second helped students build vocabulary knowledge relevant to the article topics. The third helped students build topic-related vocabulary and knowledge of connective words (e.g. furthermore, however). Instructional conditions two and three utilized the same amount of instructional time.

Results: Participants performed best on the reading comprehension measures for the articles in the third condition. Also, students with more English proficiency (based on WEDA scores) significantly outperformed the students in the emerging and lower group in both the control condition, F(1) = 4.56, p = .04, and the topic-related vocabulary condition, F(1) = 6.17, p = .01. However, in the second instructional condition, which emphasized both topic vocabulary and connectives, the two language proficiency groups performed similarly F(1) = 1.84, p = .18.

Conclusions: Findings suggest that instructional approaches that support both background knowledge and academic language development support LTELs’ comprehension and may diminish achievement gaps between LTELs with higher and lower levels of English proficiency.