Developmental Trajectories of Monolingual and Bilingual Children At-risk and Non-at-risk of Reading Disabilities

Developmental Trajectories of Monolingual and Bilingual Children At-risk and Non-at-risk of Reading Disabilities

First Author: Melissa Nichol -- Brock University
Additional authors/chairs: 
Jan C. Frijters; Joan Bosson-Heenan; Jeffery R. Gruen
Keywords: Bilingualism, Developmental dyslexia, Longitudinal, children, Reading development
Abstract / Summary: 

Purpose: A survey in the USA (2011) showed that over 60.5 million people speak another language other than English in their home, with 62% speaking Spanish. Although, research suggests second language exposure can be beneficial for developing phonological skills there is a subset of children who do not seem to reap this benefit and struggle with reading acquisition. Additionally, there is a dearth of longitudinal studies characterizing the developmental trajectories of this population.

Method: 334 children from grade 1-5 were tested across 9-time points in the New Haven Lexinome Project. The growth curves for monolingual (n= 167) and bilingual (n=167) children with and without RD were estimated on sight word reading, decoding, phonological awareness, RAN, and comprehension.

Results: Growth curve analysis revealed bilingual-RD children started lower on all measures compared to non-RD groups. However, they demonstrated faster growth compared to monolingual-RD children on real-word identification but not on phonological measures. Bilingual non-RD children began at the same skill level as monolingual non-RD children on all measures and showed similar growth rates. SES and IQ had a differential impact on growth trajectories, depending on initial language and/or disability status.

Conclusions: Findings suggest in the absence of RD-risk, bilingual children have an advantage for acquiring reading skills. In the presence of risk, bilingualism may be protective of some skill development, as evidenced by faster growth on sight word reading. However, bilingual-RD children begin to read at a lower level than non-RD children and generally, have slower growth rates across other reading subskills.