DeLSS Development of Literacy in Spanish Speakers

A Biliteracy Research Initiative Sponsored by the
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
and the Institute of Education Sciences of the Department of Education

Overview | Grants Funded | Projects | Products | Resources


The research supported within this network of investigators has as its goal the development of new knowledge relevant to the critical factors that influence the development of English-language literacy (reading and writing) competencies among children whose first language is Spanish. This initiative, jointly organized and funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and the Institute of Education Sciences of the Department of Education, was solicited in 1999, and grants were made in 2000. The funding period runs through 2004 (although some of the smaller projects were funded for only two years). The research is aimed at addressing three overarching questions:

  1. How do children whose first language is Spanish learn to read and write in English? Specifically, what skills and abilities are required, and what types of home, preschool, child care, school, and cultural experiences and environments are most supportive of English-language literacy development at different phases of development?

  2. Why do some Spanish-speaking children have difficulties acquiring English-language reading and writing skills? What specific cognitive, linguistic, environmental, sociocultural, neurobiological, and instructional factors impede the development of accurate and fluent English reading and writing skills, and what are the most significant risk factors that predict difficulties in the development of literacy skills?

  3. For which children whose first language is Spanish are which instructional approaches and strategies most beneficial, at which stages of reading and writing development, and under what conditions? Also, what teacher knowledge, teaching skills, and instructional strategies are required to ensure optimal outcomes?

The NICHD and IES are co-sponsoring this initiative for five fiscal years, FY 2000-2004, for a total commitment of approximately $32.5 million, half coming from each agency. The investigators meet annually, together with the program administrators from the funding agencies, to discuss progress on the various projects, and they have ongoing communication and collaboration throughout the year. Through these cross-project collaborations, what we learn from each project and the network as a whole will be enhanced. There is a great need for data that can offer solid empirical evidence to inform teaching approaches that will most effectively enable U.S. language minority children to develop English literacy; these projects, as designed, will provide such data.

Grants funded under this initiative

Program Projects
Two program projects are part of this network. These are large, comprehensive programs of research with cores for administration, management, data archiving, and analysis. The cores support at least three subprojects of focused research, all of which address the overarching goals of the program. Both of these five-year program projects feature longitudinal as well as cross-sectional designs, and both will study the developmental trajectory of Spanish-speaking children's development of English literacy. However, they differ in design and are highly complementary programs of research.

Research Project Grants
There are two five-year research project grants within the network, both of which are following preschoolers and examining their pre-literacy and English literacy experiences as well as language development in Spanish and English.

Small Grants
There are also three small grants, which were each funded for two years. The investigators are in the process of publishing their results and designing further research in this area.

Projects | Products | Resources

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