The goal of the proposed research is to identify factors associated with positive language, literacy, and academic outcomes in children from Spanish-speaking homes and, thereby, to provide a scientific basis for public policy and educational practices aimed at supporting the development and achievement of language minority children. One in 5 children in the U.S. live in homes where a language other than English is spoken; among school-aged children, 79% of these homes are Spanish-speaking. Many children in this population reach school age with low levels of English language skills, and they do not catch up to the skill level required for success in school in time to avoid serious academic disadvantage. Low levels of literacy and academic achievement are associated with higher rates of disease, mental illness, unemployment, and contact with the criminal justice system, making literacy and academic achievement among this large and growing segment of the population a national health concern. The proposed research is a continuation of a longitudinal study of children from Spanish-speaking homes and children from monolingual English- speaking homes that began when the children were 2 1/2 years old and has followed them, thus far, to the age of 5 years and the point of school entry. The new work will assess the children's language environments, dual language and literacy development, and executive function skill growth from age 6 to 10. Scores on school-administered assessments of academic achievement are additional outcomes measured in the 3rd and 4th grade.
The specific aims are (1) to describe language and literacy trajectories in English and Spanish across the transition to school and to assess the relation of early dual language experience, early dual language development, and concurrent home and school influences to individual differences in those trajectories, (2) to test the hypotheses that strong Spanish skills and strong executive function skills are protective factors in children from language minority homes that mitigate the risk for poor literacy and academic achievement associated with low English skills at school entry, and (3) to test the hypothesis that children with low English and low Spanish skills are particularly a risk and to identify antecedents of low risk and high risk skill profiles. The results of the proposed research will allow identification of language minority children most at risk for low levels of English literacy and academic achievement and will identify targets for interventions aimed at enhancing literacy and related health and academic outcomes in children from language minority homes. The proposed analyses will not exhaust the usefulness of the database that will result from this work. That database will include detailed measures of dual language environments and dual language skill growth from the age of 2 1/2 to 10 years, with measures of executive control, literacy, and academic achievement during elementary school, for 130 children from Spanish-speaking families and 30 children from monolingual English-speaking families. No other such database exists in the U.S.
This research will identify relations between early language skills and later literacy and academic achievement in children from Spanish-speaking homes. The findings of this research will provide a scientific basis for identifying those at risk for poo literacy and achievement and for designing programs to mitigate risk in this substantial segment of the nation's children.
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