The Literacy Skills of English Language Learners in Canada

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The Literacy Skills of English Language Learners in Canada

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The purpose of this article is to review published studies of the English literacy of children in Canada who are English language learners (ELLs) with the goal of understanding the read- ing development of ELLs and characteristics of reading disabilities (RD) in this population. Phonological processing, syntactic awareness, and working memory of ELLs with and without RD were compared to that of native English-speaking (L1) students with and without RD. Our reviewfound that ELLswith RDexperienced reading difficulties similar to those of L1 students with RD. On the basis of the evidence, ELLs are not at greater risk for RD than their native English-speaking peers. We propose that...

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  1. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 20(1), 39–49 Copyright C 2005, The Division for Learning Disabilities of the Council for Exceptional Children The Literacy Skills of English Language Learners in Canada Orly Lipka, Linda S. Siegel, and Rose Vukovic University of British Columbia The purpose of this article is to review published studies of the English literacy of children in Canada who are English language learners (ELLs) with the goal of understanding the read- ing development of ELLs and characteristics of reading disabilities (RD) in this population. Phonological processing, syntactic awareness, and working memory of ELLs with and without RD were compared to that of native English-speaking (L1) students with and without RD. Our review found that ELLs with RD experienced reading difficulties similar to those of L1 students with RD. On the basis of the evidence, ELLs are not at greater risk for RD than their native English-speaking peers. We propose that the diagnosis of a reading disability can be made in a similar manner in both ELL and L1 students. In this article, we summarize Canadian research on read- in 2002 (Schmidley, 2003). Of the 1.8 million immigrants ing and the identification of reading disability (RD) in En- who arrived in Canada during the 1990s, 17 percent were glish language learners (ELLs). Reading ability in English children between 5 and 16 years of age. In the United States, is considered crucial to success in North American society 9.2 percent of foreign-born individuals were under the age of (August & Hakuta, 1997; Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998). 18 (Schmidley, 2003). Because literacy skill in English is an important variable in The large number of students that attend Canadian schools predicting academic success, the United States has made the with limited or no English is a challenge to the educational development of the literacy acquisition of ELLs a research system. Given this large number of ELLs, it is important to priority (August & Hakuta, 1997). This issue is a priority know whether their development of literacy skills differs in shared by many Canadian researchers. Canada, like many significant ways from children who are native speakers of other countries, has had a considerable amount of immigra- English. tion over the last 70 years. As Canada has two official lan- The purpose of the present review is to evaluate the re- guages, English and French, children who come from homes search on the development of literacy skills in Canadian chil- in which neither English nor French is spoken receive most dren identified as ELLs. We specifically focus on the develop- of their schooling in English or French, depending on the ment of cognitive skills in three areas for normally achieving area of the country in which they live. Because the major- ELLS and L1 students, as well as students with RD; these ity of provinces in Canada offer educational instruction in areas are phonological processing, syntactic awareness, and English, many immigrant children from non-English- working memory. Finally, we consider the implications of speaking countries are ELLs.1 research findings for the diagnosis of RD in ELLs. Our re- Young ELLs arriving from other countries are placed into view is guided by the following research questions: (1) Do regular classrooms as soon as possible. Heritage language the same cognitive processes that influence reading develop- classes, in which the child receives instruction in the native ment in L1 groups influence ELL reading development; and or home language, are provided as part of a Canadian fed- (2) Do ELLs with RD exhibit similar cognitive profiles to eral multicultural initiative. The grade level at which Her- L1 students with RD, that is, can RD be identified in ELL itage language classes begin differs across school boards, groups, using the same procedures and techniques used with and many cultural groups provide additional Heritage lan- L1 children? guage training after school hours or on weekends. Many ELLs, therefore, have continued exposure to education in Theoretical Foundations their native language, although schooling occurs in English or French. There are two major theories about the relationship between According to official statistics (Statistics Canada, 2001), skills in first and second languages. According to the lin- Canada may have a greater proportion of ELLs than does guistic interdependence hypothesis developed by Cummins the United States. As of May 15, 2001, 5.4 million people, (1979), children who have learning problems in their first or 18.4 percent of the total population were born outside language should show similar problems in their second lan- the country. For comparison, 11.5 percent of the population guage. As well, academic skills acquired successfully in the (32.5 million people) were foreign-born in the United States first language should be transferred to the second language. The main idea of this theory is that learning a second lan- guage does not hinder the progress of either, and, in fact, Requests for reprints should be sent to Linda S. Siegel, University of British Columbia, 2125 Main Mall, Dept. ECPS, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4. may enhance both. Further, difficulties experienced in one Electronic inquiries may be sent to linda.siegel@ubc.ca. language will be experienced in other languages.
  2. 40 SPECIAL SERIES: LEARNING DISABILITIES IN ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS Alternatively, the script-dependent hypothesis posits that COGNITIVE PROCESSES IN THE the skills in one language are primarily influenced by its DEVELOPMENT OF ELL READING orthographic structure and the predictability of grapheme– phoneme correspondence rules (e.g., Lindgren, DeRenzi, & In the last 40 years, research on the development of read- Richman, 1985). Thus, different reading and writing prob- ing skills has substantially advanced our understanding of lems will emerge across languages due to differences in the the reading process, including reading failure. Since the con- characteristics of language scripts. For example, whereas En- cept of learning disability was first outlined by Samuel Kirk glish does not have a one-to-one relation between graphemes (1963), investigators have concentrated on identifying the and phonemes (words are not always pronounced as they are basic skills that are important to understanding the reading spelled and there are many irregularities), Arabic, Italian, and process in normally achieving as well as learning-disabled Portuguese have much more predictable grapheme–phoneme populations. Results have increased our ability to identify correspondence rules. Thus, the script-dependent hypothesis and respond to children at risk for reading failure in the early would predict that an ELL child whose first language is Arabic school years. Research results have identified three cognitive might not experience any difficulty in Arabic, but might suf- processes as significant for the development of reading in En- fer considerable problems in learning to read English. The glish as a first language: phonological processing, syntactic script-dependent hypothesis predicts that the deficits experi- awareness, and working memory (for a review, see Siegel, enced in learning a second language are relative to the struc- 1993). However, it is not known whether and to what ex- ture of the language. Therefore, it is possible that children tent these processes are important for reading acquisition in may experience difficulty in one language but not another. ELLs. With the large number of ELLs in school systems in Support for the linguistic-interdependence hypothesis Canada and the United States, and with the common assump- comes from Canadian research on normal achieving ELLs. tion that English language learning status puts children at risk Performances of ELLs who were native speakers of Por- for reading failure, it is imperative to determine whether there tuguese (Da Fontoura & Siegel, 1995), Italian (D’Angiulli, is convergence in research findings from studies of ELLs’ lit- Siegel, & Serra, 2001), and Arabic (Abu-Rabia & Siegel, eracy development. 2002) were compared to their respective native English- speaking peers, age 9–14. Figure 1 summarizes the perfor- mance of these three groups on the Reading subtest of the The Role of Phonological Processes Wide Range Achievement Test (WRAT3; Wilkinson, 1993). Specifically, Figure 1 demonstrates that ELLs can manifest Current theories on the development of reading in English comparable reading ability to L1 students. Within the nor- stress that phonological processing is the most significant un- mally achieving groups, the Italian ELLs performed sig- derlying cognitive process used in the acquisition of reading nificantly better than L1 students on word reading skills skills (Stanovich, 1986). With respect to reading acquisition, (D’Angiulli, Siegel, & Serra, 2001), the Arabic ELLs (Abu- phonological processing involves two major skills: phono- Rabia & Siegel, 2002), and the Portuguese ELLs (Da Fon- logical awareness and phonological decoding. Phonological toura & Siegel, 1995) performed in a similar way to their L1 awareness is the ability to identify and manipulate syllables peers. These results support the linguistic-interdependence and phonemes in oral language, whereas phonological decod- hypothesis because ELLs performed in a similar way, and in ing is the association of sounds with letters or combinations the Italian case, significantly better than L1 students. The re- of letters. sults raise questions about the cognitive processes that might Phonological processing exists on a continuum of diffi- lead to different profiles of English language learning for both culty, beginning with the awareness of whole words as units normally achieving students and those with RD. of sound through to the linking of sounds to letters. As implied 90 80 70 60 50 Portuguese 40 Italian 30 Arabic 20 10 NA=normal Achiever RD= Reading Disabled 0 NA ELL NA L1 RD ELL RD L1 FIGURE 1 Performance on WRAT3 reading of ELL students.
  3. LIPKA, SIEGEL, AND VUKOVIC: LITERACY SKILLS OF ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS 41 70 60 50 40 NA ELL NA L1 30 RD ELL RD L1 20 NA=normal Achiever 10 RD= Reading Disabled 0 Portuguese Italian Arabic FIGURE 2 Performance on the Word Attack subtest of ELL students. above, phonological awareness is generally used to refer to is currently underway in Canada (see Chiappe, Siegel, & oral language whereas phonological decoding involves print. Gottardo, 2002; Chiappe, Siegel, & Wade-Woolley, 2002; Thus, phonological awareness skills are especially attractive Lesaux & Siegel, 2003). Of particular interest, this longitu- to researchers studying children’s early literacy skills before dinal study is conducted within a school district that serves reading instruction occurs. On the other hand, phonological a large immigrant population; most of the ELLs are immi- decoding refers to the understanding of grapheme–phoneme grants to Canada who speak a language other than English conversion rules. Both phonological awareness and phono- to their parents, siblings, and extended families. The main logical decoding have been identified as necessary precur- languages spoken by the immigrant populations served by sors to successful reading acquisition and are critical skills the school district include Chinese, Farsi, and Korean, fol- in predicting the speed and efficiency of reading acquisition lowed by Japanese, Spanish, and Tagalog. In all, 30 language for native speakers of English (e.g., Adams, 1990; Bradley groups are represented in the district. Through the longitu- & Bryant, 1983; Share, Jorm, Maclean, & Matthew, 1984; dinal study, it is possible to track the reading development Wallach & Wallach, 1976). In fact, there is a consensus in of a large number of ELLs in order to compare changes in the reading literature that a core deficit in phonological pro- performance of ELLs and their L1 peers. It is important to cesses underlies RD (Siegel, 1993). note that for the purposes of the present review, only those Researchers have studied extensively the relationship be- findings that have implications for our overarching research tween phonological awareness and phonological processing questions are discussed. Interested readers are referred to the and literacy skills in ELLs. In Canada, many studies have original papers for more detailed information. been conducted to examine the development of phonologi- The longitudinal study is conducted in a school district cal processing skills in ELLs. Figure 2 illustrates some of committed to the early identification of and intervention for the Canadian research results for specific language groups children at risk for reading failure. As part of a district-wide by showing the performance on the Word Attack subtest of initiative, all kindergarten children receive systematic phono- the Woodcock Reading Mastery Test (WRMT; Woodcock, logical awareness instruction, and children identified as at 1987) for Portugese ELLs (Da Fontoura & Siegel, 1995), risk receive targeted intervention in phonological awareness. Italian ELLs (D’Angiulli, Siegel, & Serra, 2001), and Arabic During first grade, reading instruction involves systematic in- ELLs (Abu-Rabia & Siegel, 2002) as well as their respective struction in phonics within the context of a balanced literacy L1 peers, age 9–14. Figure 2 demonstrates that within the program. For those with difficulty, this instruction continues normally achieving group, Italian-speaking ELLs had sig- in a resource room setting. In this district, ELLs and native nificantly better phonological decoding skills than the na- English-speaking children live in the same predominantly tive English speakers, whereas Arabic and Portuguese ELLs middle-class neighborhoods and attend the same schools. performed in a similar way to the English native speakers. Thus, the overall correlation between ELL status and the Comparison of the normally achieving L1 students and ELLs socioeconomic status (SES) indicator (average income and demonstrates that ELLs can perform similarly to their L1 other income-related measures per school) is not significant peers at the elementary grades as long as they have ade- (Lesaux & Siegel, 2003). The lack of a significant correlation quate exposure to English. These comparisons suggest that reduces the possibility that the performance of the ELLs was there may be differences in the ease with which students confounded by SES. with different native languages learn word recoding. We This review focuses on aspects of the longitudinal study will discuss the case of ELLs with RD students later in this that have been completed to date. In one study, kindergart- review. ners were assessed on a battery of tasks that included mea- A large-scale longitudinal study designed to examine the sures of reading, phonological processing, working mem- reading development of ELLs and native English speakers ory, and spelling (Chiappe, Siegel, & Wade-Woolley, 2002).
  4. 42 SPECIAL SERIES: LEARNING DISABILITIES IN ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS Phonological processing was assessed using the Phonologi- tive English speakers (between 3.9 and 20.5 percent) as well cal Awareness Test (PAT; Muter Hulme & Snowling, 1997), as in ELLs (between 4.7 and 26.2 percent). which reflected a broad range of phonological processing At the end of second grade, phonological processing was skills. In particular, the PAT included measures of rhyme de- measured by the Rosner Auditory Analysis Test (Rosner & tection, syllable and phoneme identification, and phoneme Simon, 1971). Normally achieving was defined as perfor- deletion. An additional measure of phonological processing mance at or above the 30th percentile on a standardized that was obtained in kindergarten was the ability to recognize measure of word recognition and RD was defined as perfor- and reproduce sounds in oral language (Sound Mimicry sub- mance below the 25th percentile on reading. The ELL (n = test; Goldman, Fristoe, & Woodcock, 1974). Children were 100) and L1 (n = 766) typical reader groups performed sim- identified as normally achieving if their performance on the ilarly on the Rosner (Lesaux & Siegel, 2003). On a stan- rhyme detection task was in the average range (one standard dardized measure of pseudoword decoding (Word Attack; deviation or above the sample mean). At-risk was defined as Woodcock, 1987), the ELL typical reader group performed performance below one standard deviation on rhyme detec- significantly higher than the L1 typical reader group, indi- tion. In subsequent grades, normally achieving was defined cating heightened phonological skills. In regression analyses as performance at or above the 30th percentile on a stan- examining the prediction of second-grade reading skills from dardized measure of word recognition. RD was defined as kindergarten skills, phonological processing accounted for a performance at or below the 25th percentile on reading. An- significant amount of variance in both the native English- nual assessments of the children occurred at the end of each speaking group (4.7–4.8 percent) and the ELL group (11.2– school year. 16.8 percent). Overall, the findings from this study demonstrated that Taken together, the results of the longitudinal study indi- there were differences between the ELLs and the monolingual cate that in the early elementary years, ELLs who are not at groups in kindergarten only on the rhyme task. No differences risk for reading failure do not differ from their native English- between the language groups on any phonological task were speaking peers on phonological processing. Although it may found in grades 1 or 2 (Chiappe, Siegel, & Wade-Woolley, be the case that our tasks were not sensitive enough to de- 2002; Lesaux & Siegel, 2003). Thus, at the beginning of tect differences at the beginning of kindergarten, differences kindergarten, ELLs did not appear to be at a disadvantage were not found in subsequent grades, thereby providing sup- with respect to their phonological skills, although it is pos- port for the kindergarten results. In fact, in the second grade, sible that the other tests of phonological awareness were not ELLs performed significantly better than the L1 students on as sensitive in detecting such differences due to floor effects. a measure of phonological decoding, suggesting that ELLs However, at the end of grade 1, ELLs as a group contin- might display an advantage in phonological decoding. The ued to perform similar to their native English-speaking peers results of regression analyses indicated that phonological on phonological processing measures (Chiappe, Siegel, & skills might be more important for reading of ELLs than for Wade-Woolley, 2002), suggesting that task construction was L1 students. not accountable for the lack of differences between groups. In contrast, several studies have found the opposite pattern, Chiappe, Siegel, and Wade-Woolley (2002) suggested that namely, that ELLs performed more poorly than L1 students the rhyme detection task required knowledge of vocabulary on measures of phonological processing. For instance, Geva, and rapid lexical access. That the ELLs had lower scores than Yaghoub-Zadeh, and Schuster (2000) examined the phono- L1 students might also be related to the fact that in pre-school logical decoding of ELL and L1 students in a longitudinal years, there is a strong a concentration in the English language study. They found that first- and second-grade ELLs had sig- on activities with children that emphasize rhyming. For ex- nificantly lower scores on a pseudoword repetition task than ample, L1 English speakers might practice nursery rhymes native English-speaking students. In another study, Wade- with their parents or in group activities, and many books for Woolley and Siegel (1997) examined the phonological pro- children in English seem to rely on rhyme. Thus, it was not cessing abilities of second-grade ELL and L1 students. The unexpected that the L1 group demonstrated stronger rhyming primary languages spoken by the ELLs in this study were skills. Cantonese, Mandarin, Gujarati, Urdu, and Punjabi. These re- In regression analyses in the native English-speaking sam- searchers found that the second-grade ELL group had signifi- ple (Chiappe, Siegel, & Wade-Woolley, 2002), measures of cantly lower scores on a pseudoword repetition and phoneme phonological processing in kindergarten accounted for a sig- deletion task. nificant amount of variance in first-grade reading (between However, there is some suggestion in the literature on En- 4.4 and 18.5 percent). Similarly, kindergarten measures of glish language learning that learning a second language ac- phonological processing accounted for 14.8 percent of the tually facilitates the acquisition of literacy skills presumably variance in first-grade reading in the ELL group when entered through transfer. In fact, several studies have examined the into a regression model before letter identification. When reading skills of ELLs in both the native and second language letter identification was entered first, phonological process- to determine if phonological processing skills are correlated ing lost its significant contribution, suggesting shared vari- in the two languages. The hypothesis is that a significant rela- ance between letter identification and phonological process- tionship provides support for the positive transfer of language ing. Chiappe, Siegel, and Wade-Woolley (2002) found that skills between languages. phonological processing in the first grade also accounted for Gottardo, Yan, Siegel, and Wade-Woolley (2001) found a significant amount of variance in first-grade reading in na- that Cantonese rhyme detection was significantly correlated
  5. LIPKA, SIEGEL, AND VUKOVIC: LITERACY SKILLS OF ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS 43 with measures of English rhyme detection and English A study conducted by Bialystok, Majumder, and Martin phoneme deletion in a sample of 65 Canadian children (2003) compared the performance of monolingual children (grades 1–8) whose first language was Cantonese, but who with two groups of bilingual children on three phonological were being instructed in English. Chinese rhyme detection awareness tasks: segmentation, sound meaning, and phoneme was also associated with English reading skill. Further, Can- substitution. In addition, children were tested for their ability tonese rhyme detection was significantly related to English to decode simple words and nonwords. Participants were stu- reading even when the English phonological processing vari- dents in grades 1 and 2 who were either native English speak- ables were statistically controlled. The authors concluded that ers, Chinese-English speaking, or Spanish-English speak- the quality of phonological representations in children’ s L1 ing. For both the Chinese and Spanish ELL groups, English allowed them to reflect on phonology in that language. The was the language of school instruction, while Chinese or children in the Gottardo et al. (2001) study varied in terms Spanish was the language of the family and cultural com- of their language experiences: some children were recent im- munity. The groups differed on the segmentation task, but migrants to Canada, having lived in the country for less than not on the sound meaning or phoneme substitution tasks. 2 years, whereas other children had been born in Canada All three groups differed in their ability to segment words, and had received all their primary academic schooling in the most proficient being the Spanish-English ELLs. The English. The results might reflect the language background Chinese-English ELL group, in contrast, had the most dif- of the families. Most of the parents of the participants were ficulty with this task. The authors suggested two reasons for adults when they immigrated to Canada and had received the Spanish-English advantage: the sound structure of En- all of their schooling in Hong Kong. They had at least a glish is more similar to Spanish than to Chinese, and Span- high school education from Hong Kong and were literate in ish itself may provide an advantage by promoting access to Chinese. phonological awareness. The authors cited evidence from re- D’Angiulli, Siegel, and Serra (2001) investigated the cor- search on skilled and less skilled Spanish-speaking readers, relation between phonological measures administered in En- who performed similarly on a phoneme segmentation task glish and Italian in 81 Italian ELLs between the ages of 9 (Borzone de Manrique & Signorini, 1994). The different lev- and 13 (grades 4–8). The authors found a significant correla- els of performance in the segmentation task were not cor- tion between English and Italian pseudoword reading tasks, related with success in reading. The phoneme substitution indicating the possibility of a positive transfer of skills from task, considered the most predictive phonological awareness a regular language with predictable grapheme phoneme cor- task for reading, was not influenced by the language experi- respondences (i.e., Italian), to a highly irregular language ence of the children. Therefore, the authors concluded that (i.e., English). These results suggest that prior experience the results failed to support a role of bilingualism in devel- with a regular language may facilitate phonological process- oping phonological awareness, although they acknowledged ing skills in an irregular language. Here, too the background that knowledge of a language with similar phonetic struc- of the families might help us interpret the results. The chil- ture may be an advantage (Bialystok, Majumder, & Martin, dren were all born in Canada although their parents were 2003). of Italian origin. Both English and Italian were spoken by In sum, our review of studies on phonological processing the parents, whereas the grandparents only spoke Italian. All reveal inconsistent findings, with ELL children demonstrat- children had English as their first instructional language and ing weak phonological skills in some cases, average skills in attended Italian classes in school every day for 35 minutes other cases, and above average skills in yet other instances. as a part of a Heritage Language Program. All children were These inconsistent findings might be attributable to several from middle-class backgrounds. factors. First, there might be differences in instructional ap- Similar results were obtained with Arabic and Portuguese proaches in the schools; although the studies did not provide samples (Abu-Rabia & Siegel, 2002; Da Fontoura & Siegel, such information. So far in Canada, to our knowledge, no 1995). Specifically, Abu-Rabia and Siegel (2002) examined study has examined the influence of different educational 9- to 14-year-old students in grades 4 through 8. All the chil- methods on the development of phonological skills of ELLs. dren were born outside Canada and had lived in Canada for Another factor to consider might relate to the samples in the at least 2 years. The majority of the children came from a studies. Some studies examined ELLs as a group without low socioeconomic level. The language spoken at home was differentiating among the languages, and other studies ex- Arabic, but all children had English as their instructional amined ELLs who spoke a specific language. Therefore, it is language in Canadian schools. The children attended Arabic difficult to determine if the differences in the results are due Heritage Language programs for approximately 3 hours per to a positive or negative transfer from a specific language to week where they received instructions in reading, writing, English, or a result of the different phonological processing and speaking Arabic. Abu-Rabia and Siegel (2002) found skills of ELLs in general. A final factor to consider may be that English and Arabic phonological processing skills, as the use of different measures of phonological processing used measured by pseudoword reading in each language, were across studies. Although the results are far from conclusive, highly correlated. Similarly, Da Fontoura and Siegel (1995) there is some evidence that ELL groups can perform compa- found that English and Portuguese phonological processing rably to the L1 students, indicating that learning to read in a skills were highly correlated, and also significantly related second language does not need to be a risk factor. Additional to word reading. The positive transfer of phonological pro- research is needed to examine the factors that contribute to cessing skills from Italian, Arabic, and Portuguese to English successful acquisition of phonological skills in ELLs from indicates some support for the interdependence hypothesis. different language backgrounds.
  6. 44 SPECIAL SERIES: LEARNING DISABILITIES IN ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS The Role of Syntactic Awareness In summary, early school-aged students from diverse lan- guage backgrounds demonstrated poor performance on syn- Another necessary skill for reading is syntactic awareness tactic awareness skills compared to native English speakers, (Ehri & Wilce, 1980). Syntactic awareness is “the ability to even though the ELLs did not display concurrent difficulties reason consciously about the syntactic aspects of language, on measures of word reading. Thus, poor syntactic skills did and to exercise intentional control over the application of not seem to be related to poor early literacy in ELL groups, at grammatical rules” (Gombert, 1992, p. 39). This ability ap- least in the first years of learning to read. Poor performance pears to be critical for fluent and efficient reading of text, and could reflect the negative influences of first language on the it requires making predictions about the words that come next acquisition of English grammar, or it might be that ELLs need in the sequence. Syntactic factors may influence the difficulty more time to acquire English grammar. Such factors are not of reading single words, such as function words, prepositions, easily disentangled using a group of students from diverse and auxiliary verbs, which are difficult to integrate in a se- language backgrounds. It would be valuable to investigate mantic network (Siegel, 1992). the relation of syntactic awareness and reading for different A number of studies have reported on difficulties with native language groups, as the relation of the native and sec- syntactic awareness in English among individuals with RD ond language could be one reason ELLs perform relatively (e.g., Gottardo, Stanovich, & Siegel, 1996; Siegel & Ryan, poorly on measures of syntactic awareness. 1988; Willows & Ryan, 1986). Syntactic awareness tasks Although very few studies in Canada have examined syn- have also been found to differentiate between native English- tactic awareness of students from specific language back- speaking students and ELLs. In the longitudinal study pre- grounds, there has been some research conducted with viously discussed (Chiappe, Siegel, & Wade-Woolley, 2002; students whose native language was Portuguese, Punjabi, Lesaux & Siegel, 2003), syntactic awareness was measured Arabic, and Italian. In one study, first-grade Punjabi-speaking using an oral cloze task. In this task, children listened to the ELLs were compared to native English-speaking students on experimenter read sentences, each with a missing word (e.g., measures of reading, phonological processing, and syntac- “Dad Bobby a letter several weeks ago”) and provided tic awareness (Chiappe & Siegel, 1999). The performance a word that created a semantically and syntactically well- profiles on word recognition and phonological processing formed sentence (e.g., “sent”). In kindergarten, the native tasks were similar for the two groups, except that the Punjabi- English-speaking children obtained higher oral cloze scores speaking children had lower scores on the English oral cloze than the ELL group (Chiappe, Siegel, & Wade-Woolley, tasks. 2002). The ELLs continued to have poor syntactic awareness A similar pattern was found in an older Portuguese- skills in the first and second grades, although they performed speaking sample (Da Fontoura & Siegel, 1995). Specifically, similarly to their native English-speaking peers on word read- fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-grade Portuguese-speaking students ing tasks (Chiappe, Siegel, & Wade-Woolley, 2002; Lesaux & born in Canada were compared to native English-speaking Siegel, 2003). This finding suggests that three or more years normally achieving readers. Portuguese-speaking students of exposure to the English language was not enough to bring were selected to demonstrate at least average levels of read- ELL performance on syntactic awareness to the level of the ing. There were no differences between the Portuguese and L1 students. native English groups on the word reading tasks, but the ELL In a similar way, Wade-Woolley and Siegel (1997) found group was found to have significantly lower scores on syntac- that their ELL group performed more poorly than English tic awareness, as measured by the oral cloze task (Da Fontoura speakers on syntactic awareness, despite adequate reading & Siegel, 1995). However, this pattern does not hold for older skills. In this study, 79 children in grade 2 attended either students speaking two other native languages: Arabic and Ital- one of two suburban elementary schools or an urban elemen- ian. Specifically, in a sample of students selected to be at least tary school in a large, multicultural Canadian city. All three average readers, Arabic-English speaking children and native schools were middle class. The primary languages spoken by English-speaking students in grades 4–8 did not differ sig- ELLs were Cantonese, Mandarin, Gujarati, Urdu, and Pun- nificantly on the oral cloze task (Abu-Rabia & Siegel, 2002). jabi. Because junior kindergarten in Ontario begins at age In a fourth- to eighth-grade Italian-English speaking sample, 4, the children had spent 2 years in half-day and nearly 2 the Italian-English children had significantly higher syntac- years in full-day English language schools by the time of tic awareness scores than their native English-speaking peers the study. ELLs had continued exposure to and education in (D’Angiulli, Siegel, & Serra, 2001). their native language, although English was the language of The findings indicate that syntactic awareness was weaker instruction in school. Two tasks were used to assess syntac- for Portugese ELLs but not for Arabic or Italian ELLs in tic awareness: the oral cloze task (discussed previously) and the middle school years. Thus, the research results on the a syntactic judgment task. In the syntactic judgment task, acquisition of syntactic awareness by ELLs appears to vary the child listened to a series of 35 sentences, 10 of which for speakers of different native languages. There may be rea- were syntactically well-formed (e.g., “The boy was chased sons for the differences in the findings on the performance by the dog”) and 25 that were syntactically ill-formed (e.g., on the oral cloze task. Most of the findings that demonstrated “The tall, thin man playing was basketball”), and judged that ELLs experienced difficulty in acquiring English syn- whether each sentence was “right” or “wrong” (Gottardo, tactic proficiency were studies of younger children (Chiappe Stanovich, & Siegel, 1996). The ELLs performed more & Siegel, 1999; Chiappe, Siegel, & Wade-Woolley, 2002; poorly than their native English-speaking peers on both mea- Lesaux & Siegel, 2003; Wade-Woolley and Siegel, 1997). In sures of syntactic awareness. some cases, ELLs performed less well than native speakers
  7. LIPKA, SIEGEL, AND VUKOVIC: LITERACY SKILLS OF ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS 45 even after more than 2 years of exposure to English (Da working memory and reading might have been affected by Fontoura & Siegel, 1995; Lesaux & Siegel, 2003). In contrast, the vocabulary and syntactic demands of the verbal working older ELLs did not consistently show poorer performance on memory task (Chiappe, Siegel, & Wade-Woolley, 2002). The syntactic skills than their native English peers. Thus, one language demands of the task might be seen in the progress hypothesis might be that older children who are ELLs may made by children in a study of children progressing from have internalized how to learn language and may be able to kindergarten to second graders (Lesaux & Siegel, 2003). In apply that implicit knowledge to learning subsequent lan- this study, working memory was assessed by the Working guages. Another explanation may be that there is positive Memory for Words measure (Siegel & Ryan, 1989). In this transfer when the grammatical system of the first language task, children were presented orally with sets of sentences has a more heavily inflected structure than English, such as missing the final word. The child was required to provide the Arabic or Italian. missing word of each sentence (processing component) and at the end of each set (two, three, four, or five sentences) was required to repeat the words provided (storage component). The Role of Working Memory Word-finding problems were minimized by using sentences in which the missing words were virtually predetermined. An Working memory has received increased attention in the L1 example of a sentence is: “Snow is white, grass is .” In reading literature for its vital role in reading processes (see contrast to their performance in kindergarten and first grade, Swanson & Siegel, 2001 for a review). Working memory by the end of the second grade, ELLs performed in a manner refers to the limited capacity cognitive system involved in similar to that of their English-speaking peers on this verbal the simultaneous storage and processing of information (e.g., working memory task. Baddeley & Logie, 1999; Swanson & Siegel, 2001). For be- Taken together, the findings from the longitudinal study ginning readers, decoding requires a heavy demand on work- suggest that in the early elementary years, verbal work- ing memory, particularly verbal (as opposed to visual-spatial) ing memory might play a somewhat different role in read- working memory. Beginning readers must retrieve the appro- ing acquisition than as has typically been seen in the L1 priate grapheme–phoneme correspondences from long-term literature. These findings indicate that the weaknesses in memory, hold those in memory in the appropriate sequence, working memory experienced by ELLs in the early grades and blend them to produce the appropriate pronunciation of tend to decrease over time. This decrease (presumably due the target word. In the L1 literature, working memory tasks to an increased facility with the language) is consistent have been found to be among the most important predictors with recent cross-sectional Canadian studies. For example, of reading performance (e.g., Siegel & Ryan, 1989; Swanson D’Angiulli, Siegel, and Serra (2001) found that a sample of & Howell, 2001). 9- to 13-year-old Italian-speaking ELLs performed the same Although the findings related to the link between working as or significantly better than their native English-speaking memory and reading in ELL samples are not robust, Canadian peers on measures of working memory in both English (work- researchers have begun to make significant advancements ing memory for words) and Italian. Similarly, Abu-Rabia and in our understanding of this relationship. In the longitu- Siegel (2002) demonstrated that there was no significant dif- dinal study discussed previously, working memory differ- ference in working memory for words in a cross-sectional ences were found between L1 and ELL children in kinder- sample of 9- to 14-year-old Arabic-English speaking Cana- garten and first grade (Chiappe, Siegel, & Wade-Woolley, dian children and native English-speaking children. 2002), although these differences disappeared by second In summary, children who enter school with little or no grade (Lesaux & Siegel, 2003). Working memory in kinder- exposure to English might perform below their L1 peers on garten and first grade was assessed using the Memory for tests of verbal working memory, although this might be ex- Sentences subtest of the Stanford Binet (Thorndike, Hagen, pected, given the vocabulary and syntactic demands of ver- & Sattler, 1986). In both kindergarten and first grade, ELLs bal memory tasks. More importantly, lower performance on reproduced significantly fewer sentences than their L1 peers, working memory does not appear to affect early literacy although the groups did not differ in their overall performance skills (i.e., word recognition, decoding, spelling, compre- on standardized measures of literacy (i.e., word recognition, hension; Chiappe, Siegel, & Wade-Woolley, 2002; Lesaux & decoding, spelling). In regression analyses in the L1 sample, Siegel, 2003), and the differences in working memory perfor- kindergarten working memory accounted for a small but sig- mance between ELL and L1 children appear to decrease over nificant amount of variance in first-grade reading (between time. 1.7 and 5 percent), whereas kindergarten working mem- ory did not account for any variance in first-grade reading in the ELL sample. Similarly, although first-grade working Identification of RD Among ELLs: Can L1s memory accounted for a significant albeit small amount of Procedures Be Used? variance in first-grade reading in the L1 sample, working memory did not account for significant variance in the ELL A limited number of studies have specifically examined the sample. development of reading in ELLs who have been identified These results might uggest that verbal working memory as having RD. To examine whether the three cognitive pro- in kindergarten and first grade is unrelated to reading ability cesses thought to be important to L1 reading development in ELLs, which is inconsistent with L1 research, but these re- can discriminate ELL with RD from normally achieving sults must be interpreted cautiously. The relationship between ELLs researchers typically use one of three designs: (1) ELLs
  8. 46 SPECIAL SERIES: LEARNING DISABILITIES IN ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS identified as average or RD are compared on the three cog- The authors found that in a sample of Arabic-Canadian ELLs, nitive processes to examine potential differences; (2) ELLs Arabic students with reading problems in English were likely identified as RD in English are measured on their cognitive to display similar reading problems in Arabic, including dif- processing skills in English and their first language to exam- ficulties in pseudoword reading, measures of phonological ine potential differences; and (3) ELLs identified as RD are processing, working memory, and oral cloze. compared to L1 RD groups to examine potential differences. The third approach used to assess the cognitive process- Using the first approach, several studies demonstrated that ing skills among ELLs with RD compares RD students individuals with deficient cognitive and linguistic skills expe- to native English speakers who have RD. Figures 1 and 2 rienced difficulties in acquiring basic reading skills, regard- show comparisons between ELLs from three different first less of the language and script involved, and regardless of languages and native English speakers. As can be seen in whether the written language was their native or second lan- Figure 1, on the word reading task (WRAT3; Wilkinson, guage (e.g., Brown & Hulme, 1992; Doctor & Klein, 1992). 1993), the Portugese-English RD, the Italian-English RD, Such studies provide support for the interdependence hypoth- and the Arabic-English RD performed much like the native esis. Similar results have been demonstrated in Canada. English speakers with RD (Abu-Rabia & Siegel, 2002; Da In the longitudinal study previously described, kinder- Fontoura & Siegel, 1995; D’Angiulli, Siegel, & Serra, 2001). garten measures of phonological processing discriminated Figure 2 summarizes the performance of the three language between the at-risk and not at-risk ELLs, indicating that groups on the Word Attack subtest of the Woodcock Reading phonological processing deficits are characteristic of chil- Mastery Test (WRMT; Woodcock, 1987). Portugese-English dren at risk for reading difficulties (Lesaux & Siegel, 2003). speakers with RD and the Arabic-English speakers with RD There were no differences between the risk and no-risk ELLs had higher scores on the English pseudoword reading mea- on oral cloze or working memory, even though the overall sure than English speakers with RD; further Portugese and performance on these tasks of ELLs was significantly below Arabic speakers with RD performed better than the Italian L1 performance. This indicates that in kindergarten, ELLs speakers with RD (Abu-Rabia & Siegel, 2002; Da Fontoura were characterized by weaknesses in syntactic and working & Siegel, 1995; D’Angiulli, Siegel, & Serra, 2001). Over- memory whereas the at-risk students were weak in all three all, studies examining the cognitive profiles of ELL children cognitive processes. These results indicate that kindergarten with reading difficulties demonstrated that ELLs who were screening for reading difficulties should be based primarily identified as RD showed the same difficulties with phonolog- on measures of phonological processing. ical processing, syntactic awareness and working-memory as In second grade, there were significant differences be- English native speakers with RD. tween the English language learning average and disabled readers on phonological processing and oral cloze (Lesaux & Siegel, 2003). The ELLs also performed significantly less Problems of Valid Assessments of RD well on oral cloze than the L1 average achieving group. On working memory measures, there were no significant differ- Accuracy of assessment is an important factor in identifying ences between the English language learning average readers RD in ELLs. Limbos and Geva (2001) examined the accuracy and poor readers, although L1 average readers had signifi- of teacher assessments in screening for RD among ELL and cantly higher working memory scores than L1 poor readers. L1 first graders in 12 schools in three different areas of a large This pattern suggests that unlike L1 learners, working mem- metropolitan city in Canada. Many of the participants were ory may not be characteristic of poor reading in ELLs, at least born in Canada but did not speak English until they began to at the end of second grade. attend school. The most common first language was Punjabi, In a study examining a specific language group, six ELL followed by Portuguese, Cantonese, and several other lan- Punjabi-speaking and 11 native English-speaking first-grade guages. Teacher rating scales and nominations showed a low students were classified as poor readers based on their per- sensitivity in identifying all students at risk for RD relative to formance on a standardized measure of word recognition other forms of screening. For ELLs, teachers reported that er- (Chiappe & Siegel, 1999). These children had reading scores rors in judgment of reading performance were at least partly below the 26th percentile. The researchers found that mea- explained by over-reliance on oral language proficiency as an sures of phonological processing (i.e., pseudoword repetition, indicator. phoneme recognition, phoneme identification) discriminated It is important not to rely on oral language proficiency average from poor readers, whether the children were native as an indicator of RD among ELLs. As demonstrated in the English-speakers or ELL Punjabi-speaking students. Lesaux and Siegel study, the percentage of ELL kindergart- Using the second approach to determine the cognitive ners identified as at risk (37.2 percent) exceeded the percent- characteristics of ELLs who are poor readers, Da Fontoura age of native English-speaking students identified as at risk and Siegel (1995) examined the English and Portuguese read- (23.8 percent). By the end of the second grade, there were ing skills of ELL Portuguese-Canadian children aged 9– similar percentages of students identified as RD in both ELL 12. Portuguese is an alphabetic language that is regular and (3.72 percent) and L1 (4.2 percent) groups. In the interim, predictable in sound–letter correspondence. Poor readers in the students had received phonological awareness training Portuguese displayed the same difficulties in English, with provided in the context of a variety of literacy activities, in- problems in phonological processing, and, to a lesser degree, cluding a combination of activities with an explicit empha- deficiencies in working memory and syntactic awareness. sis on the sound–symbol relationship, in kindergarten, and Abu-Rabia and Siegel (2002) also examined ELLs with RD. a balanced early reading program that included small-group
  9. LIPKA, SIEGEL, AND VUKOVIC: LITERACY SKILLS OF ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS 47 phonological awareness and phonics instruction for all chil- However, there are other skills, such as syntactic awareness, dren regardless of language status or reading level in grade 1. and verbal working memory that probably require different For the majority of children who had experienced early read- amounts of exposure to English before ELLs are able to per- ing difficulties in kindergarten, their difficulties were likely form at similar levels to the native English-speaking students. remediated through these instructional programs. Thus, a “re- In some cases, such as with syntactic awareness, ELLs caught sponse to treatment” model of monitoring prior to labeling up with their native English peers only after three or more might be indicated for ELLs. This is consistent with findings years of exposure to English instruction and schooling. from the United States that suggest that direct instruction in With respect to the issue of the identification of a learning phoneme–grapheme strategies is of value for ELLs (Adams, disability in ELL children, research in Canada indicates that 1990; August & Hakuta, 1997). in general performance on measures of phonological aware- In addition to concerns about when assessing the oral pro- ness, syntactic awareness, and working memory distinguishes ficiency of English language learning kindergartners, there students with RD and average readers, and that this is true is little agreement on what an assessment for identifying RD for performances in both the native and second language for among ELLs should include. Traditionally, researchers and ELLs. In the Canadian studies reviewed here, ELLs with RD practitioners used the IQ test as part of a battery to assess generally performed similarly to native English-speaking stu- students with possible learning disabilities. In the last 20 dents with RD. Some ELLs with RD had significantly higher years, there has been a growing body of research that sug- scores on English pseudoword reading tasks than L1 students gests IQ is not a valid measure to assess learning disabilities with RD, possibly due to a broader knowledge of phonolog- (e.g., Fletcher, Francis, Rourke, Shaywitz, & Shaywitz, 1992; ical processes that came from exposure to more than one Siegel, 1988, 1989, 1992). In addition, studies have shown phonological system. The proposal here is that assessments that there were no significant differences in cognitive skills for ELLs at risk for RD should include the same measures or the benefits from remediation between traditionally de- typically used to assess RD in L1 students. fined IQ-achievement discrepant students with RD and those with only a low reading score but who were not discrepant (Vellutino et al., 1996; Vellutino, Scanlon, & Lyon, 2000). FUTURE RESEARCH There are even more concerns about the use of IQ as a mea- sure for identification of RD in ELLs due to the cultural biases The findings reported in this review must be interpreted cau- inherent in many of these measures and their standardized tiously for several reasons. First, the majority of studies were administration (Gunderson & Siegel, 2001). IQ tests require correlational designs using cross-sectional samples. Further, expressive language, understanding of vocabulary, culture- in these studies, limited information was provided on vari- specific knowledge, and verbal memory; administering an ables such as home literacy experiences, the language status IQ test to language minority individuals is problematic be- of the child, language exposure of the instructor, different cause it places them at a disadvantage in terms of language kinds of support programs for ELLs, and different compo- and culture. The diagnosis of RD in ELLs should be based sitions of classrooms, making it difficult to draw definitive on standardized achievement tests of reading, spelling, and, conclusions (see Tabors & Snow, 2001 for a review of rele- if possible, writing. A low score on any of these measures, vant research in this area). in the absence of co-occurring conditions such as mental Another limitation relates to the SES levels and native retardation, severe neurological problems (e.g., autism), or language proficiency measures represented in the studies in severe social or emotional difficulties might indicate RD. the review. Specifically, there is a well-known relationship between low SES and poor literacy skills. The studies in the current review tended to come from middle-class back- CONCLUSIONS grounds, which are in contrast to many of the studies with ELLs reported in the United States. In Canada, current trends From studies that have been conducted in Canada, it seems in immigration policies are based on the interplay between that three processes, phonological processing, syntactic pragmatic consideration and altruism in Canada, and polit- awareness, and working memory, are different in students ical and economic events and conditions in other countries. with RD and average readers in first and second language The Canadian immigration policy is designed to select people groups. If future research confirms that ELLs who experience who are perceived as likely individuals to make the greatest difficulties with reading have the same cognitive weaknesses contribution to the country. Immigrants are selected based on as native English-speaking children who experience difficul- their ability to contribute to the economy and fill labor-market ties with reading, it would appear that a diagnosis of RD can gaps. In addition, family reunification programs enable new be made in a similar manner in both groups, although with immigrants who are already established to sponsor relatives the caveat that abilities should be assessed in both languages to join them. Refugee acceptance procedures are also estab- within an individual whenever feasible. lished to select a quota of refugees among the total number Results from studies involving languages with regular or- of immigrants accepted (Coelho, 1998). In the United States, thographies provided support for both the interdependence most ELLs come from disadvantaged SES backgrounds and the script-dependent hypotheses. Specifically, the inter- (August & Hakuta, 1997); for example, 70 percent of English dependence hypothesis posits that the processes that are im- language learning children were eligible for free or reduced portant for the development of reading in the first language price lunches compared with 38 percent overall in the same will also be important in learning to read a second language. school (August & Hakuta, 1997).
  10. 48 SPECIAL SERIES: LEARNING DISABILITIES IN ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS Finally, as is evident from our review, studies were not Borzone de Manrique, A. M., & Signorini, A. (1994). Phonological aware- consistent in their reporting of the level of proficiency in ness, spelling, and reading abilities in Spanish-speaking children. first language for ELLs. Thus, it is not known to what extent British Journal of Educational Psychology, 64, 429–439. Bradley, L., & Bryant, P. E. (1983). Categorizing sounds, and learning to first language proficiency in ELLs influenced the findings read—a causal connection. Nature, 601, 119–121. of studies we reviewed. Future research on the development Brown, G. D. A., & Hulme, C. (1992). Cognitive psychology and second- of English language skills in ELLs from different language language processing: The role of short-term memory. In R. J. Harris backgrounds should include a focus on transfer between the (Ed.), Cognitive processing in bilinguals (pp. 105–122). Amsterdam: North Holland. first and second languages, the special characteristics of each Chiappe, P., & Siegel, L. S. (1999). Phonological awareness and reading ac- language system, and the interplay between them. In addition, quisition in English- and Punjabi-speaking Canadian children. Journal future research should consider such variables as the age of of Educational Psychology, 91, 20–28. first exposure to English, literacy instructional methods, the Chiappe, P., Siegel, L. S., & Gottardo, A. (2002). Reading-related skills proportion of ELLs in the classroom in which the child is of kindergarteners from diverse linguistic backgrounds. Applied Psy- cholinguistics, 23, 95–116. being educated, and the specific characteristics of the first Chiappe, P., Siegel, L. S., & Wade-Woolley, L. (2002). Linguistic diversity language of the student. Whenever possible, it is important and the development of reading skills: A longitudinal study. Scientific to consider language and reading skills in the first language. Studies of Reading, 6, 369–400. The reading difficulties experienced by some ELLs appear to Coelho, E. (1998). Teaching and learning in multicultural schools. Multi- lingual Matters, Frankfurt Lodge, Clevedon Hall. be a manifestation of underlying cognitive deficits, and not Cummins, J. (1979). Linguistic interdependence and the educational de- necessarily a result of lack of exposure to a second language. velopment of bilingual children. Review of Educational Research, 49, On the basis of the available studies, it appears that exposure 222–251. to a language that is more regular and predictable in terms Da Fontoura, H. A., & Siegel, L. S. (1995). Reading, syntactic and work- ing memory skills of bilingual Portuguese-English Canadian children. of letter–sound correspondence, such as Arabic, Italian, or Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 7, 139–153. Portuguese, may actually result in positive transfer for ELLs. D’Angiulli, A., Siegel, L. S., & Serra, E. (2001). The development of reading Future studies should examine specific language groups and in English and Italian in bilingual children. Applied Psycholinguistics, their positive or negative transfer in the acquisition of English 22, 479–507. as a second language. Doctor, E. A., & Klein, D. (1992). Phonological processing in bilingual word recognition. In R. J. Harris (Ed.), Cognitive processing in bilinguals (pp. 237–252). Amsterdam: North Holland. Ehri, L. C., & Wilce, L. S. (1980). Do beginners learn to read function ACKNOWLEDGMENTS words better in sentences or in lists? Reading Research Quarterly, 15, 451–476. Preparation of the manuscript was supported by a grant from Fawcett, A. J., & Nicolson, R. I. (1994). Naming speed in children with dyslexia. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 27, 641–646. the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Fletcher, J. M., Francis, D. J., Rourke, B. P., Shaywitz, S. E., & Shaywitz, Canada to Linda S. Siegel. Joanne F. Carlisle, C. Addison B. A. (1992). The validity of discrepancy-based definitions of reading Stone, Peggy McCardle, Joan Mele-McCarthy, and anony- disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 25, 555–561. mous reviewers are thanked for their comments on an earlier Geva, E., Yaghoub-Zadeh, Z., & Schuster, B. (2000). Understanding differ- version of the manuscript. ences in word recognition skills of ESL children. Annals of Dyslexia, 50, 123–154. Goldman, R., Fristoe, M., & Woodcock, R. W. (1974). GFW Sound–Symbol Tests. Circle Pines, MN: American Guidance Service. NOTE Gombert, J. E. (1992). Metalinguistic development. 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Circle mosaic. Ottawa, Ontario: Statistics Canada. Pines, MN: American Guidance Service. About the Authors Orly Lipka is a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology and Special Education at the University of British Columbia. Her research interests are in early identification and intervention for children at risk for reading failure, the reading and cognitive development of ELL speakers, and learning disabilities. Linda S. Siegel is a professor in the Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology and Special Education at the University of British Columbia, and holds the Dorothy C. Lam Chair in Special Education. She has conducted research in learning disabilities, language and cognitive development, the role of psychoeducational assessment in the identification of learning disabilities, premature and high-risk infants, bilingualism, and the early identification of learning difficulties. Rose Vukovic is a doctoral student in the Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology and Special Education. Her research interests are in the early identification of children at risk for school failure, the cognitive development of at-risk learners, and learning disabilities.
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