A two-year study to investigate literacy development among young EFL learners

A two-year study to investigate literacy development among young EFL learners

First Author: Mitsue Allen-Tamai -- Aoyama Gakuin University
Keywords: Reading development, Phonological awareness, Letter knowledge, Oral Language, young readers
Abstract / Summary: 

In learning to read, learners must understand how graphic symbols represent their spoken language first, and it is crucial for readers at the early stage to learn letter-sound mappings in each language system. Thus, in the past few decades, a substantial number of studies in L1 research have reported the importance of phonological awareness and letter knowledge on developing subsequent vocabulary and reading development (e.g. Adams, 1995; Goswami, 2003; Ehri et al, 2001). The importance of oral language on literacy development has been also recognized (e.g. Whiteburst and Christopher, 2002). The National Research Council in the U.S. reported that the majority of reading problems could be prevented if children increase their oral language skills (Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998). Along with reviewing some bilingual research underpinning the claim, this presenter will report on how English phonological awareness, alphabetical knowledge and spoken language affect vocabulary and reading development among young Japanese EFL learners.
During two years of the study, the participants (258 5th and 6th graders) were administered tests measuring their phonological awareness, print knowledge, vocabulary knowledge, and reading ability twice in each year, in addition to small quizzes measuring other skills. Their oral language was measured by the performance of retelling a story, Structural equation modeling was used to analyze the influence of those variables on their reading development. The model suggests that their English literacy development is greatly affected by these abilities and that phonological awareness, print awareness, and especially oral language affect reading acquisition, although there is a different degree of influence from each factor. Validity of transferring L1 research findings to L2 contexts was proven in spite of the substantial differences between the English and Japanese phonological and orthographic systems.