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Component skills of reading and writing in Spanish- speaking English learners


This dissertation explores the literacy abilities of Spanish-speaking bilingual children who are taught in English. They are a growing demographic, accounting for 9% of total enrollment in U.S. schools and 20% of enrollment in California. Their reading difficulties begin in pre- school and appear to persist throughout their academic careers. Literacy acquisition is crucial for both academic and career success. Bilingual children present an opportunity to study reading acquisition in a typically- developing child who comes from a non-monolingual language environment. In addition, this information can help guide educational policy to provide help where it is needed most. In order to identify areas of need, it is instructive to compare the bilingual children to their monolingual peers. These groups are compared not to belabor differences between them but to uncover areas that seem most vulnerable in the bilingual children. The monolingual children serve as a necessary reference point to gauge relative strengths and weaknesses in the bilingual children. Chapter 1 presents an overview of how reading and written expression develop in monolingual children, and how demographic and within- and cross- language factors affect this development. In Chapter 2, demographic and English language factors are explored in a cohort of 67 monolingual and 65 SEB bilingual from first through fourth grades. Chapter 3 is an examination of the impact of words that share form and meaning (i.e., train/ tren) or form but not meaning (i.e., pan/pan, which means bread) cross-linguistically on single-word processing in the same cohort. Chapter 4 provides a detailed analysis of the written narrative abilities of a larger cohort of monolingual and bilingual children. In Chapter 5, implications of the results and future directions are discussed. This dissertation presents a comprehensive exploration of the reading and written expression abilities of bilingual children. The results suggest that demographic variables may be more important than linguistic ones in explaining the reading challenges in the bilingual group. They also serve to highlight areas of particular need in the linguistic profile of the bilingual children

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