Acquiring Literacy in English:
Crosslinguistic, Intralinguistic, and Developmental Factors

Research and Assessment Core

Principal Investigator: Dorry Kenyon, Center for Applied Linguistics
Co-Investigators: Valerie Malabonga, Center for Applied Linguistics
Catherine Snow, Harvard Graduate School of Education

Further Information


The Research and Assessment Core provided support for the three subprojects individually, as well as cross-project comparative data and analysis.

Subproject Support

The Core assisted the subprojects of the research program by providing expertise in the development and adaptation of assessments and other instruments and addressing issues in using such instruments with Spanish speakers learning English. The Core also investigated the reliability and validity of these instruments. Furthermore, the Core developed the guidelines and procedures for external researchers to apply when using the researcher-developed tests, thereby further validating them.

Table 1 lists the assessments that were developed for each of the subprojects.

Table 1. Researcher-Developed Assessments by Subproject



All subprojects

Subproject 1

Subproject 2

Subproject 3


Contextualized Performance Levels

The Core provided comparative data on the levels of performance achieved by monolingual Spanish- and English-speaking children that helped contextualize the performance of bilingual children participating in the larger study. The comparative data was used to develop benchmarks or Contextualized PerformanceLevels on key assessments developed by the researchers.

Cross-Project Analyses

The Core conducted cross-subproject analyses to determine the role of home and school language and literacy in the development of word- and text- level reading skills of the bilingual children who were the subjects of the study.



Subproject Support

Validation of the researcher-developed tests continued as external researchers used them and submitted their data.

Contextualized Performance Levels

The comparative data collected by the Core showed that the performance of the bilingual children in the study was very similar to that of comparable monolingual Spanish- and English-speaking children.

Cross-Project Analyses

Analysis conducted by the Core produced two major findings.

  • The effects of family socioeconomic status and home language use on word-level reading decrease with age. These home variables play a larger role for kindergartners than for third and fifth graders.
  • Oral vocabulary, above and beyond socioeconomic status, home language use, home literacy practices, and school language use, plays an important role in word-level reading for children in kindergarten, third grade, and fifth grade, and in text-level reading for third- and fifth- grade children.



Read Research and Assessment Core summary [PDF, 283 KB] Adobe PDF Icon

View list of resulting publications

Read descriptions of instruments developed:

The work reported here was supported by Grant No. 5-P01-HD39530 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and from the Institute of Education Sciences of the U.S. Department of Education. However, the contents do not necessarily represent the positions or policies of these agencies, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.