The developmental progression of cognitive-linguistic skills in emergent bilingual children
While there exists an extensive research literature that focuses upon literacy development in monolingual, English speaking children, very little research has been conducted regarding the problems encountered by children learning English as an additional language (EAL). Recent political and educational concerns have been the educational under-achievement of minority ethnic children and their underrepresentation in those identified as having specific learning difficulties. This thesis aims to further our understanding of factors underlying literacy development in both monolingual and EAL children to produce evidence to inform policy and practice in addressing these concerns. A three-year longitudinal study is reported together with a series of experimental studies. The longitudinal study examines the developmental pattern of the processes underlying literacy development in children learning EAL and also their monolingual peers. Forty-three children learning EAL and forty-three monolingual (English speaking) children were assessed on a range of cognitive-linguistic measures in School Year 2. Testing was repeated in School Years 3 and 4. The experimental studies explored in more detail the comprehension-related difficulties identified in the EAL children in the first year of the longitudinal study. Given that boys' underachievement in literacy is a general concern in the monolingual population, gender differences within both the monolingual and EAL children are also examined in the longitudinal study. Children learning EAL and their monolingual peers achieved similar levels of success on reading accuracy-related measures and made similar progress over the three years. For the EAL children there was no evidence of gender differences whilst for the monolingual children there were lower scores for the boys. On comprehension-related measures, although both groups of children made a similar level of progress at each point in time, children learning EAL experienced more difficulty than their monolingual peers. Gender differences in comprehension were, in general, not found for either group of children. The findings are discussed in terms of theoretical and practical implications for addressing the educational underachievement of ethnic minority children and the identification of specific learning difficulties in these children.