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Past Presentations

4th International Conference on Speech, Writing and Context

October 27 - 29, 2008
Quertaro, Mexico

Tuesday, October 29th, 2008

The effects of vocabulary knowledge on reading comprehension: Evidence from a longitudinal study of biliteracy development
Research on the acquisition of first-language reading skills has demonstrated a strong relationship between knowledge of word meaning and ability to comprehend passages containing those words (Anderson & Freebody, 1981). Findings from a limited number of cross-sectional studies conducted with second language learners (e.g., Carlisle, Beeman, Davis, & Spharim, 1999) suggest that English vocabulary knowledge is a predictor of reading achievement for Latino students as well. However, it remains to be seen whether the effect of vocabulary on reading comprehension holds constant over time and whether similar effects are found for Spanish as well.

The present study examined the longitudinal effects of vocabulary on reading comprehension in English and Spanish in 183 bilingual students. A two-level growth model was constructed in each language to investigate the time-varying effects of vocabulary development on the development of reading comprehension from Grade 2 to Grade 5, controlling for student background characteristics and the time-varying effects of decoding. Controlling for other variables in each model, vocabulary knowledge was found to have a significant and positive effect on reading comprehension in both English and Spanish. In Spanish, the effect of vocabulary was consistent over time. In English, the effects of vocabulary increased while the effects of decoding decreased over time, suggesting that vocabulary may ultimately become a stronger predictor of reading comprehension in English. These findings make the following contributions to the literature on the development of literacy skills: 1) they validate the crucial role of vocabulary knowledge on the development of text-level skills in English and provide evidence for similar effects in Spanish in bilingual speakers; 2) they underscore the importance of longitudinal research to show changing relationships over time; and 3) on a more practical level, they point to the need for schools to provide ongoing and intensive vocabulary instruction from early on.

Presenter: Igone Arteagoitia

Time: 3:00 pm

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