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Early literacy development in a multilingual educational context: a quasi-experimental intervention and longitudinal study

Wealer, Cyril (2019) Early literacy development in a multilingual educational context: a quasi-experimental intervention and longitudinal study. PhD thesis, The University of Sheffield & University of Luxembourg.

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Based on concerns about literacy difficulties experienced by children learning to read and write in a second language, repeated calls have been made for more research on literacy development in multilingual educational settings. Enhanced understanding of literacy development in a second language is essential to optimize support structures for children learning to read and write in a language they have yet to fully acquire. The current thesis presents two longitudinal studies contributing towards this aim. Both studies were conducted with young children growing up in Luxembourg, a linguistically and culturally diverse country where the language spoken in preschool is Luxembourgish, but children learn to read and write in German in Grade 1. Study 1 was a quasi-experimental intervention study exploring the efficacy of a classroom-based early literacy intervention. Children from 28 preschool classes (age 5-6) were allocated to either the intervention (n = 89) or a standard curriculum (control) group (n = 100). Classroom teachers delivered four intervention sessions (20 minutes each) per week over 12 weeks (48 sessions in total) to their whole classes. The intervention programme targeted phonological awareness, letter-sound knowledge and print awareness embedded in a language and literacy-rich context. All children were assessed before and immediately after the intervention in preschool, and at a nine months follow-up in Grade 1 (age 6-7) after having started formal literacy instruction in German for five months. The intervention group significantly outperformed the control group on early literacy measures immediately postintervention in preschool and the results generalised to measure of reading comprehension and spelling in Grade 1. The study provides clear evidence for the efficacy of the early literacy intervention, particularly for a subpopulation of children with low oral language skills in Luxembourgish, many of whom were second language learners. Study 2 was a correlational study on a subsample of the children from Study 1 (from untrained control group). The aim was to identify preschool predictors in Luxembourgish of literacy skills in German in Grade 1 for multilingual children learning German as a second language. Ninety-eight children completed measures of potential predictors in preschool (age 5-6), including phonological awareness, letter-sound knowledge, rapid automatized naming, verbal short-term memory and vocabulary knowledge in Luxembourgish, along with measures of word reading, reading comprehension and spelling in German in Grade 1 (age 6- 7). While moderate to strong correlations were found between all individual preschool predictors and later literacy measures, only phonological awareness, and letter-sound knowledge emerged as unique predictors of all literacy measures. These findings suggest that, despite individual differences, learning to read in a second language may be in many aspects similar to learning to read in a first language. Taken together, the findings of this thesis represent important steps in extending the theoretical knowledge base on second language literacy acquisition and in strengthening the evidence base for identification and prevention strategies of literacy difficulties in linguistically diverse children in Luxembourg.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health (Sheffield)
The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Social Sciences (Sheffield) > Human Communication Sciences (Sheffield)
The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health (Sheffield) > Human Communication Sciences (Sheffield)
Depositing User: Cyril Wealer
Date Deposited: 25 Sep 2019 15:46
Last Modified: 25 Sep 2019 15:46
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/24612

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