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Precursors of bilingual reading development (Bhalloo & Molnar, 2023)

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posted on 2023-08-18, 23:19 authored by Insiya Bhalloo, Monika Molnar

Purpose: Literacy precursors are cognitive, linguistic, and oral-language skills that predict future reading skills in children as young as 4 years. Speech-language pathologists and educators utilize these precursors as assessment tools to identify children at risk for reading difficulties. Most current tools are developed based on monolinguals (predominantly in English), despite the significant percentage of bilinguals globally. As such, bilingual children are typically assessed on tools developed for monolinguals in research and clinical settings. Despite this common practice, there is a lack of comprehensive synthesis on whether these precursors are a reliable indicator of reading skills in bilingual children. Our article examines whether literacy precursors commonly used with monolinguals are associated with reading development in simultaneous bilinguals.

Method: Following Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses and Cochrane guidelines, our review includes four databases (Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts, Educational Resources Information Center, Modern Language Association, and PsycINFO), in addition to gray-literature and manual reference-list searches. To control for age of acquisition and language dominance variability, we included typically developing simultaneous bilinguals exposed to both languages before age 3 years (N = 5,942). We analyzed reported statistical associations between code-related or oral-language precursors and reading outcome measures, using correlational meta-analyses.

Results: The 41 reports, which met inclusion/exclusion criteria, were published between 1977 and 2022. The average age at assessment was 7;5 (years;months; range: 3;0–11;0), with children speaking over 21 bilingual language combinations. Our meta-analysis demonstrated significant within-language correlations and cross-language transfer effects for code-related (e.g., phonological awareness) and oral-language (e.g., vocabulary and morphological awareness) precursors. Semantic awareness, however, was not a reliable predictor in bilinguals.

Conclusions: Phonological awareness and vocabulary measures—even if originally developed for monolingual children—can form a meaningful component of early literacy assessment in simultaneous bilingual children: These precursors may be used as assessment tools across heritage and societal languages in research and clinical practice. Future research suggestions within this domain are also discussed.

Supplemental Material S1. Full electronic database search strategy for the four databases.

Supplemental Material S2. General database search syntax.

Supplemental Material S3. Database search terms for literacy precursors, literacy outcome measures, and participant demographic characteristics.

Supplemental Material S4. Studies with assigned study numbers included in the systematic literature review and meta-analysis.

Supplemental Material S5. Precursor-outcome associations in simultaneous bilingual children, based on the type of literacy precursor and reading outcome measure assessed.

Supplemental Material S6. Extracted data items corresponding to studies included in the systematic literature review and meta-analysis.

Supplemental Material S7. Extracted statistical values for precursors in relation to reading outcome measures.

Supplemental Material S8. Precursor-outcome associations assessed in one language for simultaneous bilingual children.

Supplemental Material S9. Precursor-outcome associations assessed in both bilingual languages for simultaneous bilingual children.

Supplemental Material S10. Forest plot indicating random-effects model for phonological awareness and word/nonword reading, as assessed in English. Figure corresponds to Table 3.

Supplemental Material S11. Forest plot indicating random-effects model for phonological awareness and word/nonword reading, as assessed in another (non-English) heritage or societal language. Figure corresponds to Table 3.

Supplemental Material S12. Forest plot indicating random-effects model for vocabulary and word/nonword reading, as assessed in English. Figure corresponds to Table 3.

Supplemental Material S13. Forest plot indicating random-effects model for vocabulary and word/nonword reading, as assessed in another (non-English) heritage or societal language. Figure corresponds to Table 3.

Supplemental Material S14. Forest plot indicating random-effects model for morphological awareness and word/nonword reading. Figure corresponds to Table 3.

Supplemental Material S15. Forest plot indicating random-effects model for vocabulary and text reading comprehension. Figure corresponds to Table 4.

Supplemental Material S16. Forest plot indicating random-effects model for word/nonword decoding and text reading comprehension. Figure corresponds to Table 4.

Supplemental Material S17. Forest plot indicating subgroup meta-analysis for phonological awareness in relation to word/nonword reading, as assessed in the same (within-language) or different (cross-language) language. Figure corresponds to Table 5.

Supplemental Material S18. Forest plot indicating subgroup meta-analysis for vocabulary and word/nonword reading, as assessed in the same (within-language) or different (cross-language) language. Figure corresponds to Table 6.

Bhalloo, I., & Molnar, M. (2023). Early precursors of reading development in simultaneous bilinguals: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Perspectives of the ASHA Special Interest Groups, 8(5), 1103–1120. https://doi.org/10.1044/2023_PERSP-23-00041

Funding

This project was supported by a Canada Graduate Scholarship—Master’s awarded to Insiya Bhalloo by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC: 771-2019-0057).

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