The stability, overlap, and predictors of bilingual word reading difficulties in first to Third grade students

The stability, overlap, and predictors of bilingual word reading difficulties in first to Third grade students

First Author: Elizabeth MacKay -- Dalhousie University
Additional authors/chairs: 
Helene Deacon; Becky Xi Chen
Keywords: Bilingualism, Dyslexia, Biliteracy, early identification, Predictors of reading skills
Abstract / Summary: 

Purpose: More than half the world’s children learn to read in two languages. Some of these children struggle in learning to read one or both these languages. In this context, we examined stability over time (Grades 1 to 3) in bilingual readers’ word reading difficulties as well as potential langauge overlap in these difficulties. We did so within a group of children learning to read languages represented with similar orthographies: English and French. Further, in the interests of informing early identification, we examined cross-language predictors of bilingual word reading difficulties.
Methods: A total of 122 children in French Immersion participated, completing measures of English nonverbal intelligence, phonological awareness, and rapid automatized naming, as well as both English and French receptive vocabulary and word reading.
Results: Chi-square analyses demonstrated greater retrospective stability in English than in French word reading difficulties between Grades 3 and 1. There was also significant overlap of English and French reading challenges in Grade 1, but not in Grades 2 or 3. Grade 1 phonological awareness distinguished between good and poor readers in English and French at Grade 3.
Conclusions: For French Immersion children, English word reading difficulties are more likely to persist than difficulties in French. Further, after first grade, word reading difficulties in English and French may be independent of each other. Finally, phonological awareness is an appropriate early skill for which we should evaluate in order to identify children at risk of word reading challenges in bilingual programs. Taken together, these results highlight the importance of considering the specific nature of bilingual word reading difficulties.