Reading development in bilingual children

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The development of reading in bilingual children proves to be a complex process. Multiple factors determine L2 reading development and these factors include L2 oral proficiency, L1 background knowledge and PP skills, just to mention a few. Theories on bilingual reading development facilitating an understanding of L2 reading have been central in the study of bilingualism. Some of these theories will be outlined in this chapter. Furthermore, the linguistic properties of NS and English and how the differences in linguistic systems impact on reading development of bilinguals will be discussed in this chapter.

Reading development in bilingual children

Bilingualism refers to the ability of an individual to communicate effectively in two languages (Butler and Hakuta 2006, 115). The two languages of bilinguals may however, not be used with the same degree of proficiency, as one language may dominate over the other and the language of reading may not be the L1 acquired (Baker 2006, 3). Thus, bilingualism does not strictly entail an equal level of proficiency and competence in both languages. A linguistic dilemma is therefore created, seeing that it becomes very difficult to determine when an individual qualifies as a bilingual.
Bilingualism is, broadly speaking, classified into ‗simultaneous bilingualism‘ and ‗sequential (successive) bilingualism‘. A simultaneous bilingual is an individual whose two languages are present from birth (Butler and Hakuta 2006, 118). The current global phenomenon presents a language scenario where individuals are born into a world of more than one language. Despite a community using a particular L1 on day-to-day basis, an L2 is often introduced to children at the same time that they begin to develop their L1. The exposure to an L2 often happens through a wide range of media. A sequential bilingual is an individual whose L2 is added at some stage after the L1 has begun to develop (Butler and Hakuta 2006, 118). The NS-English bilingual children in the present study are classified as sequential bilinguals.
They learn an L2 after acquiring linguistic knowledge of their L1. The language situation of the NS-English bilingual children in this study can be termed ‗emergent bilingual‘ (Wilsenach 2013, 17). The children have early oral input in NS at home. English is formally introduced once they are enrolled in primary school.
Learning to read in two languages is a challenging task (Ehlers-Zavala 2005, 656; Strauss 2008, 19; Yildiz-Genc 2009, 407). There are a number of barriers that bilinguals have to overcome in reading development. For example, while reading in L2 shares some basic elements with reading in L1, there are important differences between the two processes (Bernhadt 2009, 3; Singhal 1998, 1).4 Differences may exist in terms of strategy use and in the development of cognitive skills necessary for reading. For instance, there is evidence that L2 readers use more top down strategies, such as background knowledge about the topic or predictions/inferences to try and compensate for limited L2 proficiency (Yildiz-Genc 2009, 412).
Certain metalinguistic and cognitive skills that are critical for reading development emerge differently in bilingual children and in monolingual children (Bialystok 1997, in Lesaux and Siegel 2003, 1006). Other factors that determine differences between L1 and L2 reading processes are the cultural, linguistic, and educational backgrounds of the learner (Singhal 1998, 1). Though there are notable similarities and differences between L1 and L2 reading, existing literature does not provide very clear and conclusive evidence on the nature of these differences and similarities (Yildiz-Genc 2009, 407); possibly due to the interplay of various factors in the two processes.
The process of reading can be affected in different ways in bilingual children. Bilingualism can facilitate or impede L2 learners reading development (Joy 2011, 5; Lesaux and Siegel 2003, 1005). Bilingualism can act as a catalyst to reading development but at the same time it can constrain the process. Bialystok‘s (2002) research framework for bilingual reading acquisition identifies three prerequisite skills that are essential for bilingual reading development, including the concept of print, oral language proficiency, and metalinguistic awareness. Using this framework, Bialystok (2002) reviewed a large body of research and literature to show how bilingualism may alter the developmental course of these skills in the learners L1 and L2. Bialystok (2002,190) concludes that the effects of bilingualism with respect to understanding the concept of print are supportive for reading, negative with respect to oral language proficiency and neutral with respect to metalinguistic awareness. Based on this framework, it can be expected that bilingualism could have both enhancing and negative effects on the reading acquisition of NS-English bilingual children, depending on the skills involved.

Theories of reading development in bilingual children

Bilingualism is a reality in the RSA, just as it is in most countries around the globe. A number of theories have been advanced in explaining reading development in bilingual children. These theories include the linguistic interdependence hypothesis, linguistic threshold hypothesis, central processing hypothesis and script dependent hypothesis. Each of these theories contribute to our understanding of how a learner‘s L1 and L2 relate in reading, as well as how skills in L1 reading transfer and assist in L2 reading development. The mentioned theories will be discussed below.

Linguistic interdependence hypothesis

The linguistic interdependence hypothesis (LIH), also known as the common underlying proficiency model, was proposed by Cummins (1991a, 2005). The LIH assumes that L1 and L2 reading abilities are interdependent. L1 reading development provides a good foundation for the development of L2 reading. The basic reading skills acquired in L1 are transferrable and facilitate L2 reading development. According to Cummins (2005, 4) there is a common cognitive proficiency across languages which facilitates the transfer of language skills (such as reading skills) from one language to another. The linguistic knowledge that a child possesses in the L1 reading becomes instrumental in developing reading abilities in the L2.
The LIH holds the view that the transfer of skills from L1 to L2 happens automatically (Cummins 1991a, 84) – the acquired L1 reading skills are readily available for and transferrable to L2 reading; and one need not re-learn reading in an L2, given that one has a certain level of L1 reading ability. In other words, once reading ability has been acquired in the L1, the same operation does not have to be reacquired in the L2 (Bernhardt and Kamil 1995, 17). Reading skills are seen as universal across languages but, according to the LIH, the L1 must be adequately developed before exposure to L2 so that L1 knowledge can effectively support L2 learning. The hypothesis not only predicts transfer from L1 to L2, but also predicts the possibility of bidirectional transfer (i.e. from L2 to L1).
Scholars have often criticised the LIH for lacking detailed information that supports the theory. For instance, August (2006, in Cui 2007, 2) notes that the hypothesis neither identifies the cognitive mechanisms involved in transferring linguistic knowledge nor elaborates on which L1 skills the L2 learners transfer, or how they transfer them. The cognitive mechanisms involved in such a mental function need to support the theory and as such an explicit explanation of how the process of transfer occurs needs to be provided. The theory falls short in this regard. The LIH further overlooks the importance of L2 language proficiency. The LIH attributes L2 academic difficulties to weak L1 skills (Bernhardt and Kamil 1995, 19) and places emphasis on increasing L1 instruction, at the expense of L2 instruction. L2 instruction is seen as not really important as long as L1 skills are fully established. According to Grabe (2009, 141), the LIH gives the impression that L2 language proficiency is not critical to L2 reading development and that L2 learners can have weak L2 proficiency, but use their L1 reading skills to carry out L2 reading tasks successfully. This is overemphasising the importance of L1 reading skills in L2 reading and neglecting the importance of proficiency in the L2.

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1.1 Background to the study
1.2 Research problem
1.3 Context of the research problem
1.4 Theoretical and analytical framework
1.5 Research aims
1.6 Research questions
1.7 Research hypotheses
1.8 Research methodology
1.9 Limitations to the study
1.10 Synopsis of the dissertation
1.11 Conclusion
2.1 Phonological processing skill
2.1.1 Zhang and McBridge-Chang (2010) developmental model
2.1.2 Boets et al (2008) Causal path model
2.1.3 The developmental model and the causal path model
2.2 The phonological system
2.3 Reading development
2.4 Jean Chall‘s model of reading development
2.4.1 Pre-reading (6 months to 6 years)
2.4.2 Initial reading stage (6 years to 7 years)
2.4.3 Confirmation and fluency stage (7 years to 8 years)
2.4.4 Reading for learning the new stage (9 years to 13 years)
2.4.5 Multiple viewpoints stage (14-18 years)
2.4.6 Construction and reconstruction stage (over 18 years)
2.5 Ehri‘s model of reading development
2.5.1 Phase 1: Pre-alphabetic phase
2.5.2 Phase 2: Partial alphabetic phase
2.5.3 Phase 3: Full alphabetic phase
2.5.4 Phase 4: Consolidation phase
2.6 Implications of the two models of reading development
2.7 Word recognition skills in reading development
2.7.1 The alphabetic principle
2.7.2 Automaticity in word recognition
2.8 Reading fluency in reading development
2.9 Phonological processing and reading development
2.10 Phonological processing skills and the process of reading
2.10.1 Phonological awareness (PA) skill
2.10.2 The developmental models of phonological awareness
2.10.3 The importance of PA in reading development
2.10.4 The relationship between PA and reading
2.11 Phonological working memory skill
2.11.1 A model of working memory (Baddeley and Hitch 1974)
2.11.2 The development of phonological working memory
2.11.3 The importance of phonological memory in reading
2.11.4 The relationship between PWM and reading development
2.12 Rapid automatised naming skill
2.12.1 The importance of rapid naming in reading development
2.12.2 The relationship between RAN and reading development
2.13 Phonological processing deficit and reading difficulties
2.13.1 The phonological deficit theory
2.14 Gender differences in auditory processing and reading
2.15 Conclusion
3.1 Reading development in bilingual children
3.2 Theories of reading development in bilingual children
3.2.1 Linguistic interdependence hypothesis
3.2.2 Linguistic threshold hypothesis
3.2.3 Central processing hypothesis
3.2.4 Script dependent hypothesis
3.2.5 Implications of the theories of L2 reading
3.3 Reading in a second language (L2)
3.4 Key factors in L2 reading
3.4.1 Language proficiency
3.4.2 L1 literacy knowledge and experience
3.4.3 Knowledge of text content and structure
3.5 Failure to read: a ‗language problem ‘or ‗reading problem‘
3.6 Transfer of phonological L1 skills to L2 reading
3.7 Language systems: Northern Sotho and English
3.7.1 Rhythmical properties
3.7.2 Syllable structure
3.7.3 Consonant clusters
3.7.4 Phonemic similarities and differences
3.7.5 Orthographic structure
3.7.5 1 The Psycholinguistic grain size theory
3.8 Conclusion
4.1 Research design
4.2 Research setting
4.3 Subjects
4.4 Data collection instruments
4.4.1 Phonological processing Elision task Phoneme isolation Memory for digits/Digit span task Non-word repetition(NWR) task Rapid digit naming Rapid letter naming Rapid colour naming Rapid object naming
4.4.2 Reading assessments Word reading Text reading fluency
4.5 Data collection procedure
4.6 Ethical considerations
4.7 Research reliability and validity
4.8 The pilot study
4.9 Data analysis
4.9.1 Descriptive statistics
4.9.2 Correlation between variables
4.9.3 Predictive contribution of variables to reading
4.10 Conclusion
5.1 Preliminary analyses
5.1.1 Test of normality
5.1.2 Homogeneity of variance
5.1.3 Multicollinearity and singularity
5.1.4 Randomness
5.2 Descriptive statistics
5.3 Main effects and group differences
5.3.1 Additional MANOVA statistical assumptions Homogeneity of variance-covariance matrices
5.3.2 Group and gender differences on English PP and reading Group differences for English PP and reading measures Gender differences for English PP and reading measures.
5.3.3 Group and gender differences for NS PP and reading measures Group differences for NS PP and reading measures Gender differences for NS PP and reading measures
5.4 Correlations
5.4.1 The relationship between PP and reading skills Phonological awareness and reading Phonological working memory and reading Rapid automatised naming and reading The relations among PA, PWM and RAN
5.4.2 Transfer of PP skills from L1 to L2 Cross-linguistic correlations between PP and reading measures (L1 and L2) Cross-linguistic correlations between PP measures in L1 and L2
5.5 Multiple regression analyses
5.5.1 Predictors of reading development in NS-English bilinguals
5.5.2 Within language PP predictors of NS reading Within-language PP predictors of NS reading in NS group Within-language PP predictors of NS reading in English group
5.5.3 Within language PP predictors of English reading Within-language PP predictors of English reading in NS group Within-language PP predictors of English reading in English group
5.5.4 Cross language PP predictors of NS reading Cross language predictors of NS reading in the NS group Cross language predictors of NS reading in the English group
5.5.5 Cross language PP predictors of English reading Cross language PP predictors of English reading in the NS group Cross language PP predictors of English reading in the English group
5.6 Conclusion
6.1 The relationship between PP skills and reading development
6.1.1 The relationship between PA and reading
6.1.2 The relationship between PWM and reading skills
6.1.3 Rapid automatised naming and reading
6.2 Cross-linguistic transfer of phonological skills
6.2.1 Cross-linguistic phonological predictors of English reading
6.2.2 Cross linguistic phonological predictors of NS reading
6.3 Group differences on PP and reading measures performance
6.3.1 Group differences on the English measures
6.3.2 Group differences on the NS measures
6.3.3 Intermediate summary
6.4 L1 literacy instruction and development of PP and reading skills
6.4.1 Development of literacy and PP skills in the entire sample
6.4.2 Development of literacy and PP skills in the English group
6.4.3 Development of literacy and PP in the NS group
6.4.4. Intermediate summary
6.5 Gender differences in reading achievement
6.6 Summary of key findings
6.7 Limitations and recommendations for future research
6.8 Practical Implications
6.9 Conclusion


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