Research on the literacy and language development of Spanish-speaking English language learners

Vocabulary Instruction and Assessment for Spanish Speakers (VIAS)

Girl readingThe Vocabulary Instruction and Assessment for Spanish Speakers (VIAS) project was a program of research funded through grants from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and the U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences (IES) from September 2007 through May 2013, led by Principal Investigator Dr. Diane L. August. The grants supported research on the literacy and language development of Spanish-speaking English language learners (ELLs) conducted by investigators at the Center for Applied Linguistics and its collaborators, Harvard University, Boston College, the University of Connecticut, and the University of Houston.

The VIAS program consisted of four research subprojects and two cores (research and administrative):

Subproject 1: Predicting Growth in Spanish-speaking Children’s Reading: PreK to Eight
This longitudinal study examined the patterns of reading and language development of Spanish-speaking children reading in English, the factors that predict their developmental trajectories, and the specific skills that are susceptible to change.

Subproject 2: Early Childhood Intervention Study: Improving the Language and Literacy Skills of Spanish-English Bilingual Kindergarteners
This longitudinal intervention explored the oral language proficiency and literacy development of kindergarten children from Spanish-speaking backgrounds. The intervention attempted to improve childrenís language and early literacy skills through the implementation of a program that combined English and Spanish treatments.

Subproject 3: Developing Vocabulary in Spanish-Speaking Children: The Acquisition of Vocabulary in English Project (AVE)
This subproject consisted of a series of research studies that investigated third grade ELL and English proficient studentsí knowledge of high frequency academic vocabulary then examined the relative effectiveness of several methods of vocabulary instruction on second-grade Spanish-speaking ELL studentsí acquisition of high frequency content vocabulary.

Subproject 4: Enhancing Vocabulary through Cognate Awareness (EVOCA)
This study investigates the effects of two cognate-based interventions on the development of literacy skills among Spanish-speaking adolescent students.

Administrative Core
The Administrative Core supported the program of research through management of grant documentation and reporting, supporting communication and collaboration among the researchers, disseminating the programís progress and results, and sharing of researcher-developed resources.

Research Core
The Research Core supported the subprojects in selecting and developing assessments and protocols for their research and by providing technical support to the research team on data analysis.



Implications for Policy, Practice, and Future Research
Catherine Snow, Harvard University Graduate School of Education

Download the PDF by
Dr. Snow.

VIAS Advisory Committee

Joanne Carlisle
University of Michigan

Michael Graves
University of Minnesota

William Nagy
Seattle Pacific University

David Pearson
University of California, Berkeley

Flora Rodriguez-Brown
University of Illinois at Chicago


Read the list of publications based on the VIAS program of research.


Research-Developed Instruments (RDIs) were developed as part of both the VIAS and Acquiring Literacy in English (ALE) projects. These RDIs can be made available for use by qualified researchers. Information about the RDIs and an application form to request use of the RDIs is available on each website.

Learn about VIAS RDIs

Learn about ALE RDIs