This subproject will examine reading development from pre-K through seventh grade in a substantial sample of Spanish-speaking English-language learners (ELLs) for whom we will have collected data on home literacy, parent language use and attitudes, and socioeconomic status, as well as language and literacy skills. In addition to providing insight into the trajectories of reading development for this group of learners, this study will begin to address the question of how to differentiate sources of reading difficulties for ELLs who are struggling, recognizing that a significant proportion of these learners struggle as a result of contextual factors and their status as second language learners with limited English oral language proficiency and experience with print in English, rather than with difficulties related primarily to learning disabilities as traditionally conceived. The proposed study will continue work begun with these children in the Study of Language and Literacy Development of Spanish-Speaking Children (current P01 project). In this subproposal, we refer to that work as the Early Childhood (EC) phase (pre-K through second grade), and the proposed work as the Middle Grade (MG) phase (fourth through seventh grades). The study has three specific aims: 1. To improve our understanding of the developmental trajectories of reading in Spanish-speaking ELLs. At the conclusion of the EC phase, the dataset includes data on language and literacy skills, as well as cultural and demographic information on 300 children from Spanish-speaking homes, collected annually from pre-K through second grade. Analyses of the data confirm significant variability across individuals as well as across skills and language of assessment (English, Spanish). The Middle Grade (MG) phase of the study will provide the opportunity to continue to collect data with this sample through to the seventh grade. Using the data from both phases of the study, we will be able to test the hypothesis that trajectories based on data collected in early childhood (pre-K to second grade) will be modified by the increasing text demands placed on the reader during the fourth to seventh grade time period. 2. To examine the influence of social (e.g., demographic), cultural (e.g., home literacy practices), and linguistic (e.g., phonological awareness and language proficiency in Spanish and English) factors on developmental trajectories of reading. We will use social, cultural, and linguistic variables to predict growth in reading achievement from pre-K to seventh grade. The findings from the EC phase indicate that both home and classroom factors are related to children's vocabularies and other literacy skills (see Progress Report below). Because of the longitudinal nature of this study, and because the initial data collection period occurred when the children were in pre-K, we will examine how the influence of these variables changes over time and seek to identify the differential relations of precursor variables to growth in English oral language and literacy skills associated with the substantial changes in the task demands of school-related literacy. Thus, we will incorporate time-varying predictors in the analyses focused on modeling the relationship between social, cultural, and linguistic factors on developmental trajectories of reading. 3. To gain insight into the source of difficulties of ELLs who are struggling readers. Specifically, we will address the question of differentiating the source of students'difficulties, recognizing that a significant proportion of these learners struggle as a result of contextual factors and their status as second language learners with limited English oral language proficiency and experience with print in English, rather than with learning disabilities as traditionally conceived. Based on eight waves of data, we will examine the trajectories of reading development of children who demonstrate low proficiency in English and Spanish and who are thus considered limited dual language children. Preliminary findings from the EC phase (Lesaux, Tabors, &de la Torre Spencer, in preparation) indicate that 20 percent of the sample was identified as limited dual language children in the fall of pre-K, defined as scoring more than two standard deviations below the mean on assessments of both English and Spanish vocabulary. At first grade, only 19 percent of this sub-sample scored within one standard deviation of the mean in English vocabulary. These differing trajectories of development will be examined in order to contribute to our understanding of the language and learning difficulties of ELLs. We anticipate that we will be able to identify variables or developmental trajectories that are related to persistent classification as children with limited dual language abilities, as well as variables and trajectories that are related to significant and early development of oral language and vocabulary to average levels. Unifying this subproject with the other three subprojects and two cores proposed in this program project is a shared model for the development of word knowledge and comprehension skills and for the methods used in the conduct of research. Like the other subprojects, this one begins with the model of L2 reading comprehension outlined by Proctor, Carlo, August, &Snow (2005), which states that decoding and oral language skills are important factors in the reading process, with oral language (and vocabulary knowledge, in particular) being stronger reading predictors in the upper-elementary levels. It also builds on findings from the cross-project analyses cited in the Research Program Overview that indicate the instrumental role that vocabulary plays in reading comprehension. This study is conceptualized as an anchor to the other studies in the proposed program project. It will provide a comprehensive longitudinal description of vocabulary and literacy development among Spanish-English bilinguals from the very early stages of literacy acquisition through to the middle school years. It will help us understand the complex relationships among variables, for example, how home language use and practices, school language use and practices may be related. Further it will help us understand the relationships between oral and reading vocabulary. The study proposed here will advance our understanding of transfer and its role in the acquisition of word knowledge and comprehension skills. Transfer is a central concept in bilingualism research, but one that has often been either presupposed or prematurely dismissed and that has itself too rarely been a focus of study, particularly longitudinal studies with learners followed for multiple years. Given the longitudinal nature of the study and the related dynamic developmental process to be studied, important insight about the complex relationships among variables will be gleaned and will contribute significantly to our understanding of the English literacy development of Spanish speakers. This study also shares a commitment to sound methodology with the other proposed studies in the program project. We will collect longitudinal data and use individual and multilevel growth modeling in order to shed light on the complex relationships among oral language and literacy skills, both within language and across languages.
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