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The Relationship between Language and Reading Skills in Bilingual Spanish-English Speakers

Gottardo, Alexandra PhD


This study was conducted to determine the relationship between first (L1) and second language (L2) oral language proficiency and reading skills in Spanish-English speakers. Eighty-five children with Spanish as their L1 were tested in first grade. Reading, phonological processing, and oral language processing were measured in English and Spanish. Reading and phonological processing were related both within and across languages. In both languages, reading and related skills and oral language proficiency formed three separate factors: (1) a reading factor; (2) an oral proficiency factor; and (3) an implicit phonological factor. However, English vocabulary and reading were related, suggesting that vocabulary knowledge supports partial phonological recoding skills in beginning readers. These findings suggest that measures of phonological processing in the child's L1 and/or L2 and oral vocabulary be included when screening children at risk for early reading difficulties.

Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

I would like to thank Heidy Stanish for assistance with the project and the testers Mary Harmon, Andrea Ness, David Acevedo, Barbara Knauf, Teresa Lamb, Kim Dickman, and Jeanne Hansen. Thank you to the teachers, and the children and their families in the Grand Rapids Public School Board and the Holland Public School Board. Thank you to Robindra Sidhu for his statistical consultation. This research was made possible by a grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development awarded to Grand Valley State University.

© 2002 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.