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Interpreting the Early Language Trajectories of Children From Low-SES and Language Minority Homes: Implications for Closing Achievement Gaps

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Abstract

On average, children from low socioeconomic status (SES) homes and children from homes in which a language other than English is spoken have language development trajectories that are different from those of children from middle-class, monolingual English-speaking homes. Children from low-SES and language minority homes have unique linguistic strengths, but many reach school age with lower levels of English language skill than do middle-class, monolingual children. Because early differences in English oral language skill have consequences for academic achievement, low levels of English language skill constitute a deficit for children about to enter school in the United States. Declaring all developmental trajectories to be equally valid would not change the robust relation between English oral language skills and academic achievement and would not help children with poor English skills to be successful in school. Remedies aimed at supporting the development of the English skills required for academic success need not and should not entail devaluing or diminishing children's other language skills. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved).
Interpreting the Early Language Trajectories of Children From Low-SES and
Language Minority Homes: Implications for Closing Achievement Gaps
Erika Hoff
Florida Atlantic University
On average, children from low socioeconomic status (SES) homes and children from homes in which a
language other than English is spoken have language development trajectories that are different from
those of children from middle-class, monolingual English-speaking homes. Children from low-SES and
language minority homes have unique linguistic strengths, but many reach school age with lower levels
of English language skill than do middle-class, monolingual children. Because early differences in
English oral language skill have consequences for academic achievement, low levels of English language
skill constitute a deficit for children about to enter school in the United States. Declaring all developmental
trajectories to be equally valid would not change the robust relation between English oral language skills and
academic achievement and would not help children with poor English skills to be successful in school.
Remedies aimed at supporting the development of the English skills required for academic success need not
and should not entail devaluing or diminishing children’s other language skills.
Keywords: language development, bilingual development, socioeconomic status, achievement gaps
Children who come from a lower socioeconomic status (SES)
and children who come from homes in which a language other than
English is spoken have language trajectories that are different from
those of children from middle-class, monolingual English-
speaking homes, and, on average, they have different language
skills when they reach school age (e.g., Brooks-Gunn, Rouse, &
McLanahan, 2007; Hernandez, Denton, & Macartney, 2007). In
U.S. schools, many lower SES and language minority children
underperform compared with their middle-class, English monolin-
gual counterparts. Differences in language skills are often seen as
a cause of these achievement gaps (for discussion, see Morrison,
Bachman, & Connor, 2005; Oller & Eilers, 2002). Two different,
and not mutually exclusive, arguments have been made for both
these populations as to how their language skills could cause
the frequently observed achievement gaps. One argument is that
the less successful children are deficient in their English language
skills, and the children’s difficulties arise from these language
deficits. The other argument is that the less successful children
have different but not deficient language skills, and their academic
difficulties arise from a mismatch between the skills the children
possess and the skills that schools require.
For both low-SES and language minority children, then, the
question of whether developmental differences should be inter-
preted as deficits to be remedied or as differences to be embraced
has been posed. The difference-deficit debate was central to dis-
cussions in the 1960s and 1970s of the language skills of low-SES
children and the appropriate approach to intervention (e.g., Fea-
gans & Farran, 1982; Williams, 1970). Although not explicitly
labeled as a difference-deficit debate, the value placed on the
language skills of children who speak a minority language also
underlies controversy over the best approach to their education
(e.g., Baker, 2001; Faltis, 1997). This article aims to make two
contributions to these longstanding debates.
The first aim of this article is to argue for a pragmatic approach in
which the interpretation of differences in developmental trajectories
and recommendations regarding remediation are guided by data on
the causes and consequences of those differences. This is not a novel
idea but rather is a commonsense and frequent approach to interpret-
ing differences. For example, low musical ability is interpreted and
treated differently from low language ability because of their different
consequences, and short stature as a result of normal genetic variabil-
ity is interpreted and treated differently from short stature as a result
of malnutrition or illness because of their different sources. If some
language development trajectories have negative consequences for
children’s ultimate achievement, then perhaps those trajectories are
not as desirable as trajectories that lead to academic success. If the
trajectories with negative consequences have causes that can be rem-
edied, perhaps efforts should be directed toward that goal. According
to this argument, the question of how to interpret and respond to
differences between the language development trajectories of children
from low-SES or minority language homes and their monolingual,
middle-class peers depends on the answers to two empirical ques-
tions: (1) What are the consequences of the differences? and (2) Are
the sources of those differences potential targets of intervention?
The second aim of this article is to address those empirical
questions with the currently available evidence. Toward that end,
this article reviews the literatures on the nature of the early
This article was published Online First February 13, 2012.
This article was prepared while the author was supported by a sabbatical
leave from Florida Atlantic University and was a visiting researcher at the
ESRC Centre for Research on Bilingualism in Theory and Practice, Bangor
University, Bangor, Wales. The author was also supported by Grant
HD068421 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child
Health and Human Development. The author thanks Fred Genesee for
comments on a previous version of this article.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Erika
Hoff, Department of Psychology, Florida Atlantic University, Bc-52, 274,
Davie, FL 33314. E-mail: ehoff@fau.edu
Developmental Psychology © 2012 American Psychological Association
2013, Vol. 49, No. 1, 4–14 0012-1649/12/$12.00 DOI: 10.1037/a0027238
4
language development trajectories of low-SES and language mi-
nority children, on the role of early oral language skills in explain-
ing the achievement gaps that are characteristic of both groups of
children, and on the source of the language skills that place these
children at an educational disadvantage. The research is reviewed
separately for each population and discussed together in a con-
cluding section.
Early Language and Academic Achievement in
Children From Low-SES Homes
Who Are the Children From Low-SES Homes?
Children who come from low-SES homes are children whose
parents have low levels of education, income, and/or occupational
prestige. Children who live in poverty represent the extreme of the
SES distribution, and in the United States that group includes an
estimated 22% of all children (Tavernise, 2011). However, mater-
nal education may be the component of SES most relevant to
children’s language development, and there are effects of maternal
education on children’s language in samples that are above the
poverty threshold (Hoff, 2006; Hoff, Laursen, & Bridges, 2012;
Huttenlocher, Waterfall, Vasilyeva, Vevea, & Hedges, 2010).
Thus, the number of children whose language development reflects
influences of low SES is likely to be greater than 22% of all
children in the United States.
What Are the Early Language Trajectories of
Children From Low-SES Homes?
Children from low-SES homes show lower levels of oral lan-
guage skill than do children from more advantaged backgrounds
on measures of language processing, language comprehension, and
language production from infancy through high school, and the
gap widens with age (Fernald, Marchman, & Weisleder, 2012;
Hoff, 2006; Huttenlocher et al., 2010). Different studies use dif-
ferent indices of SES (Brooks-Gunn et al., 2007; Hoff et al., in
press), but the effect of SES is sufficiently robust that it appears
across different measurement approaches. The relation of SES to
early language also appears within and across different ethnic
groups, suggesting that although SES and minority group status are
frequently confounded, the effects of SES are not merely ethnic
differences, relabeled (Hoff, 2006).
Vocabulary size appears to be the aspect of language most
sensitive to the effects of SES. Hart and Risley’s (1995) well-
known study documented differences in vocabulary size among
children of professional, working class, and low-SES families that
were observable from almost the beginning of speech and that
increased with development. By 3 years of age, the higher SES
children in Hart and Risley’s study had produced over 1,000
different words, while the lower SES children had produced half
that many, and these findings are not anomalous in the literature.
Arriaga, Fenson, Cronan, and Pethick (1998) found that 80% of a
sample of low-SES children between 18 months and 30 months
scored below the 50th percentile in productive vocabulary, using a
test normed on a mid- to high-SES reference group. Other studies
using spontaneous speech, maternal report, and standardized tests
to assess productive and receptive vocabulary have also found
SES-related differences, with the size of the difference in vocab-
ulary depending on the size of the difference in SES represented in
the sample (Dollaghan et al., 1999; Hoff, 2003; Hoff-Ginsberg,
1998; Pan, Rowe, Singer, & Snow, 2005; Rescorla, 1989; Rowe &
Goldin-Meadow, 2009).
Grammatical development is also affected by SES. Higher SES
children outperform lower SES children on standardized language
tests that include measures of grammatical development (Dol-
laghan et al., 1999; Morisset, Barnard, Greenberg, Booth, &
Spieker, 1990); they produce more complex utterances and use a
greater variety of syntactic structures in spontaneous speech (Hut-
tenlocher et al., 2010; Vasilyeva, Waterfall, & Huttenlocher,
2008), and they perform better on tests of complex syntax com-
prehension (Huttenlocher, Vasilyeva, Cymerman, & Levine,
2002). As Hart and Risley (1995) found for vocabulary, these
differences appear early and do not diminish with develop-
ment—at least not before 54 months of age. In Arriaga et al.
(1998), 70% of the lower SES sample scored below the 50th
percentile on a measure of the grammatical complexity of their
utterances. Although the pattern of findings and effect sizes across
multiple studies suggests that the SES effect on vocabulary may be
larger and more robust than the effect on grammatical develop-
ment, the effect on grammatical development is not necessarily
small or inconsequential for the children. The low-income children
studied by Snow (1999) were more than a year behind norms
derived from a middle-class sample in the length of their utter-
ances in spontaneous speech.
In addition to these SES-related differences in vocabulary and
grammar, there are SES-related differences in children’s narrative
skills, in their phonological awareness, and in their speed of
language processing. The narratives produced by lower SES chil-
dren are less sophisticated than the narratives produced by middle-
class children of the same age, when assessed in terms of topic
coherence and independence from the nonlinguistic context
(Heath, 1983; Vernon-Feagans, Hammer, Miccio, & Manlove,
2001). Lower SES children show lower levels of phonological
awareness than do middle-class children, with the size of the
SES-related difference increasing from the ages of 2 years to 5
years (Bowey, 1995; Lonigan, Burgess, Anthony, & Barker, 1998;
McDowell, Lonigan, & Goldstein, 2007). Lower SES children are
also slower in accessing the words they know (see Fernald et al.,
2012). It is important also to note that neither low- nor high-SES
children are monolithic in their language skill, that substantial
individual differences exist within both populations, and that the
distributions of skills among lower and higher SES children over-
lap (Hoff, 2003; Pan et al., 2005). Nonetheless, the effect of SES
on children’s early language skills is large, pervasive, and robust.
What Are the Consequences of SES-Related
Differences in Early Oral Language Skill?
Three types of findings address the question of whether these
SES-related differences in early language skills have consequences
for children’s academic achievement, including (1) findings that
SES is related to children’s academic achievement, (2) findings
that oral language skills are related to academic achievement, and
(3) findings that suggest that oral language skills mediate the
relation between SES and academic achievement. In some of the
studies to be reviewed, the outcome variable is academic achieve-
ment broadly defined; more frequently, it is the narrower outcome
5
INTERPRETING EARLY LANGUAGE TRAJECTORIES
of literacy. However, literacy skills are an important component of
academic achievement and a predictor of academic success more
broadly defined, as evidenced, for example, by the high rate of
school dropout among youth who have difficulty with reading
(Durham, Farkas, Hammer, Tomblin, & Catts, 2007; Lloyd, 1978).
The relation of family SES to children’s academic achieve-
ment. Across different measures of SES and different academic
outcomes, a large body of research spanning decades has made it
clear that family SES predicts not only children’s academic skills
at school entry but also their academic trajectories through high
school (Alexander & Entwisle, 1988; Brooks-Gunn et al., 2007;
Morrison et al., 2005; Stipek & Ryan, 1997; Willms, 2003; Zill,
Collins, West, & Hausken, 1995). The Nation’s Report Card, an
assessment of the academic performance of a nationally represen-
tative sample of U.S. students at ages 9, 13, and 17 years, found
that differences among children in their parents’ levels of educa-
tion are related to differences among children in their scores in all
areas of schooling assessed; this includes reading, math, and
science (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2000). These
differences have appeared every year since data collection began
in 1969; they have been stable over that time period, and the size
of the differences can be substantial. To illustrate, the average
reading score at age 13 of children whose parents had some
education past high school was higher than the average reading
score at age 17 of children whose parents had less than a high
school education. The relation between SES and academic
achievement appears across nations—although to different degrees
depending on the size of the inequalities that exist (Keating &
Hertzman, 1999; Willms, 2003).
The relation of early oral language skills to the achievement
of literacy. The findings of multiple studies indicate that the
different academic paths followed by children from different so-
cioeconomic strata have their roots in skill differences established
even before children start school and that differences in language
skill are a significant component of these early differences (Dick-
inson & Tabors, 2001; Morrison et al., 2005; Snow, Burns, &
Griffin, 1998). Children’s oral language skills prior to reading
instruction, including vocabulary, grammar, and narrative abilities,
have been found to predict reading success (Muter, Hulme, Snowl-
ing, & Stevenson, 2004; NICHD Early Child Care Research Net-
work, 2005; Roth, Speece, & Cooper, 2002; Scarborough, 2001).
The metalinguistic skill of phonological awareness is a particularly
strong predictor in the early stages of learning to read when the
major hurdle for children is to learn to use letter–sound correspon-
dences to decode printed text (i.e., to sound out words; Schatsch-
neider, Fletcher, Francis, Carlson, & Foorman, 2004). Some re-
search findings have suggested that oral language skill broadly
construed is a stronger predictor of literacy than any isolated
component (Dickinson, McCabe, Anastasopoulos, Peisner-
Feinberg, & Poe, 2003; Lonigan, Schatschneider, Westberg, & the
National Early Literacy Panel, 2008; NICHD Early Child Care
Research Network, 2005).
Oral language skills as the mediator of SES-related differ-
ences in literacy achievement. It is possible, in principle, that
language skills are not the source of the SES-related differences in
children’s school achievement. There are multiple nonlinguistic
correlates of SES that also affect children’s academic achievement
and could contribute to the relation of SES to academic achieve-
ment. These include mothers’ prenatal nutrition, the children’s
physical health, their parents’ involvement in their academic work,
the level of chaos in their households, the amount of sleep they get
(Buckhalt, 2011), and perhaps a host of noncognitive abilities
(Heckman, Stixrud, & Urzua, 2006).
A direct test of the hypothesis that oral language skills mediate
the relation between SES and academic achievement that was
conducted using longitudinal data from a large sample of White,
midwestern children (thus eliminating race and cultural variation
as confounds) found that children’s oral language skill at kinder-
garten entry explained most of the effect of SES on elementary
school performance (Durham et al., 2007). Findings of three other
studies have also suggested that oral language skill has a real effect
on literacy achievement and is not just a covariate of other SES-
related influences or a marker of shared genetic influence. A
follow-up study of the children first studied as toddlers by Hart and
Risley (1995) found vocabulary size at 36 months to be a signif-
icant predictor of reading and spelling skills from kindergarten
through third grade, holding the effects of SES constant (Walker,
Greenwood, Hart, & Carta, 1994). Analysis of data from the
NICHD Early Child Care Study found that oral language skills at
54 months predicted first grade reading scores within SES
(NICHD Early Child Care Research Network, 2005). Last, a
longitudinal study of 7,179 twin pairs found evidence for a direct
causal influence of early language skill on subsequent reading skill
(Harlaar, Hayiou-Thomas, Dale, & Plomin, 2008).
What Are the Sources of SES-Related Differences in
Early Oral Language Skills?
A substantial body of evidence has argued that differences in
language experience are the primary cause of SES-related differ-
ences in children’s oral language skills. Compared with mothers
with more education, mothers with less education talk less to their
children, and the nature of the speech they address to children is
less supportive of language development than is the speech of
more educated mothers. Lower SES mothers address speech to
their children more frequently for the purpose of directing their
children’s behavior and less frequently for the purpose of eliciting
and maintaining conversation (Hart & Risley, 1995; Hoff, 2006).
In talking to their children, lower SES mothers make use of a
smaller vocabulary and syntactic structures that are less varied and
less complex, compared with higher SES mothers (Hoff, 2003;
Huttenlocher, Vasilyeva, Waterfall, Vevea, & Hedges, 2007).
Multiple studies have found that the properties characteristic of
higher SES mothers are positive predictors of children’s language
development— even within SES (Hoff, 2006; Huttenlocher et al.,
2010). One study found that properties of maternal speech fully
mediated an SES-related difference in 2-year-olds’ vocabulary
(Hoff, 2003). Evidence that the relation between input and lan-
guage acquisition is causal, and not just a reflection of genetically
based similarity in the verbal skills of mothers and children, comes
from studies of teacher input effects. Children whose teachers
provide more language-advancing input progress more in their
language over the course of the school year than do children with
teachers whose language use is less supportive (Dickinson &
Porche, 2011; Huttenlocher et al., 2002).
6HOFF
Are the Early Language Skills of Low-SES Children a
Deficiency to Be Remedied, or a Difference to Be
Accommodated by Schools?
The argument has been made that low-SES children have unique
linguistic strengths that are not captured by the procedures and
tests most frequently used in research. The evidence put forward in
support of this argument has tended to be in the form of ethno-
graphic studies of specific populations and sometimes of particular
uses of language that are unique to those populations. For example,
Heath (1983) described the narrative skills displayed by young
boys in a rural, lower SES African American community in the
southeastern United States. Boys under the age of 4 years were
able to hold the floor and engage the attention of adults with the
stories they told, using a variety of poetic devices, sound effects,
and accompanying movement. The narrative cohesion that is part
of standard assessments of children’s narrative skill is not a valued
property of stories in this community. Similar skills in low-SES
African American boys have been described by Vernon-Feagans et
al. (2001), who also described the children’s narratives as being
jointly constructed with other, older children—in contrast to the
narrative performances of mainstream children, which are often
monologues. Research with both European American and African
American children has described the other complex skill sets that
lower SES children must master, including those used in teasing
interchanges (Miller, 1986); in ritualized insults (Abrahams,
1962); and in the combination of improvisational rhymes, steps,
and hand claps that form the “steps” performances of preadoles-
cent African American girls (Gilmore, 1986). In addition to their
description of the particular skills of particular groups, these stud-
ies have made the broader point that there is substantial sociocul-
tural variation in norms for language use that can make children
from nonmainstream backgrounds look deficient when viewed
from the perspective of mainstream expectations, while they are
not at all deficient according to the norms for their own group. A
similar argument applies to the interpretation of standardized test
scores, which are frequently developed and normed using middle-
class reference groups and may not tap the skills of children from
other backgrounds.
The measures on which low-SES children appear deficient,
however, include many that predict academic achievement. In
contrast, the language strengths of low-SES children do not appear
to be in domains that contribute to academic success. In fact, one
study found the unique narrative style described for low-SES
African American children to be a negative predictor within that
population, with more skillful children having lower literacy
scores (Vernon-Feagans et al., 2001). The unique skills of low-
SES children and the inadequacy of standardized tests notwith-
standing, the diverging trajectories of language development that
characterize lower and higher SES children put lower SES children
at an educational disadvantage when they reach school age. By the
pragmatic criterion of usefulness for academic success, the differ-
ent skills of lower SES children constitute a deficit.
A remaining question, unanswered in the research reviewed, is
whether the approach of schools could be modified to depend less
on the language skills that are areas of weakness for lower SES
children and make use of their unique linguistic strengths. It seems
unarguable that schools could always do better to capitalize on the
skills children bring to the classroom. However, the clear impli-
cation of the research on literacy is that the language skills that
predict literacy are requirements of the reading process and not just
the requirements of a particular pedagogical approach. Children
need to be able to decompose words into individual sound seg-
ments (phonological awareness) in order to decode the printed
word, and they need to know the vocabulary and grammatical
structures they are reading to extract meaning. Compared with
children from more advantaged backgrounds, lower SES children
have deficits in these language skills, which literacy requires.
Early Language and Academic Achievement in
Children from Language Minority Homes
Who Are the Children From Language Minority
Homes?
In the United States, one in five children live in households in
which a language other than English is spoken (Federal Inter-
agency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, 2011). The majority
of these children were born in the United States and have one or
two foreign-born parents (Hernandez et al., 2007; Lesaux & Kief-
fer, 2010; Place & Hoff, 2011). Language use in these households
can range from exclusive use of the heritage language to English
dominance (Eilers, Pearson, & Cobo-Lewis, 2006; Lesaux & Kief-
fer, 2010; Oller & Eilers, 2002; Place & Hoff, 2011).
What Are the Early Language Trajectories of
Children From Language Minority Homes?
Early trajectories of language development among children who
hear a language other than English at home vary widely. Some,
who hear only the minority language at home, develop as mono-
lingual speakers of their parents’ heritage language until they
begin preschool or kindergarten. Many children from language
minority homes develop as bilinguals, but they vary in the balance
of their English and heritage language skills. Some bilingual
children from language minority homes have English skills on a
par with monolingual English-speaking children, but many do not.
Studies of preschool children with sufficient sample sizes for
statistical comparison find that on average, children who are ac-
quiring two languages have lower levels of skill in each language
than do monolingual children (Marchman, Fernald, & Hurtado,
2010; Thordardottir, Rothenberg, Rivard, & Naves, 2006; Vagh,
Pan, & Mancilla-Martinez, 2009)— even when matched for SES
(Hoff et al., 2012). Significant differences appear both in vocab-
ulary and in grammatical development. It is important to point out
that children learning two languages do not learn language in total
at a slower rate. Measures of bilingual children’s total language
knowledge, combined across both their languages, show that bi-
lingual children equal or exceed monolingual children in their rates
of vocabulary development (Hoff et al., 2012; Pearson, Ferna´ndez,
& Oller, 1993; Thordardottir et al., 2006) and, in one study,
grammatical development as well (Thordardottir et al., 2006).
There is little research on trajectories of bilingual development
from 2 1/2 years to the age of school entry, and then the literature
resumes— describing the English language skills of children from
language minority homes at school entry. The clear and consistent
finding from this work is that children exposed to a language other
than English at home enter school with lower levels of English
7
INTERPRETING EARLY LANGUAGE TRAJECTORIES
skill than do monolingual children (e.g., Castro, Pa´ez, Dickinson,
& Frede, 2011). In the low income samples that are the focus of
much of the research, Latino dual language learners at 4 and 5
years of age score one to two standard deviations below monolin-
gual norms in receptive and expressive vocabulary and in auditory
comprehension (Hammer, Lawrence, & Miccio, 2008; Pa´ez, Ta-
bors, & Lo´pez, 2007; Tabors, Pa´ez, & Lo´pez, 2003). Low-SES
Latino dual-language learners in prekindergarten and kindergarten
programs have lower phonological awareness and letter identifi-
cation abilities than do monolinguals (Hammer & Miccio, 2006;
Hammer, Miccio, & Wagstaff, 2003; Pa´ez et al., 2007; Tabors et
al., 2003). The findings of multiple studies in the United States
have led researchers to refer to a “school readiness gap” between
low-income bilingual children and monolingual middle-class chil-
dren (Castro et al., 2011).
It is not clear how much of the gap in school readiness charac-
teristic of low-SES Latino children is a function of SES and how
much is a function of their dual language exposure. Large samples
of children from high-SES bilingual homes have not been stud-
ied—in part because in the United States bilingual homes are
disproportionately low-SES homes (Haskins, Greenberg, & Frem-
stad, 2004). Although the size of the contributions of SES and dual
language exposure are not known, there is evidence that SES is not
likely to fully account for the difference between language minor-
ity and middle-class monolingual children. In their study of
Spanish–English bilingual children and English monolingual chil-
dren in Miami, Oller and Eilers (2002) found independent and
additive effects of SES and language exposure at home on chil-
dren’s English language skills. Using census data, Hernandez
(2004) found that low income and exposure to a language other
than English at home (and the concomitant reduced exposure to
English) are both risk factors.
Another unanswered question is whether and when bilingually
developing children catch up to monolingual children in their
levels of English language skills. Data from the United States have
suggested that children from language minority backgrounds do
not catch up to their monolingual peers in vocabulary (Mancilla-
Martinez & Lesaux, 2011)— even by the age of 11 years. One
study of French–English bilinguals in Montreal reports a signifi-
cantly diminished monolingual– bilingual gap by the age of 5 years
(Thordardottir, 2011). Studies in Wales have found that children
who hear only Welsh at home catch up to monolingual English-
speaking children in their English language skills by the age of 9
years (Gathercole & Thomas, 2009). In the United States, a
follow-up of some of the children studied in Hoff et al. (2012)
indicated that the bilingual children had caught up to monolingual
norms in English by the age of 4 years—although not their SES-
matched monolingual age mates—and they also had slipped rela-
tive to monolingual norms in their Spanish skills (Hoff, Rumiche,
& Lago, 2012). In fact, a common developmental trajectory among
children in immigrant communities is to become increasingly
dominant in the community language as they get older (Najafi,
2011; Pearson, 2007). To many, this loss of heritage language
proficiency is as great an issue as the achievement of majority
language proficiency (Fillmore, 1991). In sum, although the liter-
ature at this point does not provide a full description of the
trajectories of English language development in children from
language minority homes with the effects of dual language expo-
sure isolated from effects of other, correlated variables, it is
nonetheless clear that there is a substantial population of children
from language minority homes who reach school age with levels of
English oral language skills that are obstacles to their academic
success (Shatz & Wilkinson, 2010).
What Are the Consequences of Language Minority
Children’s Early Oral Language Skill?
As was the case for examining consequences of the language
skills of low-SES children, the question of whether the language
skills of children from language minority homes affect their aca-
demic achievement is addressed by three types of findings: (1)
findings that language minority status is related to academic
achievement, (2) findings that oral language skills are related to
academic achievement—and this question takes a different form
for children who have skills in two languages—and (3) findings
that indicate a role for language skills in mediating the relation
between language minority status and academic achievement.
The relation of language minority status to children’s aca-
demic achievement. In the United States, 31% of children who
speak English but who hear a language other than English at home
fail to complete high school, compared with 10% for students who
speak only English at home (National Center for Education Sta-
tistics, 2004). Latino dual language learners, who are the largest
segment of bilingual children in the United States, have lower
levels of school achievement than do non-Hispanic Whites
throughout school (National Center for Education Statistics, 2006).
This phenomenon is not unique to the United States. In many other
countries as well, low levels of academic achievement characterize
the children of immigrants and are cause for national concern
(Scheele, Leseman, & Mayo, 2010).
Because language minority status is confounded with SES in the
United States, it is difficult to isolate the effect of language
minority status on academic achievement. Some evidence has
suggested that the effect observed in the United States—and else-
where—is not solely a function of the children’s dual language
environment and resultant language skills but rather also reflects
the lower social prestige of minority languages. It is argued, in this
vein, that bilingual children do not differ in academic achievement
from monolingual children in countries where bilingualism is a
stable phenomenon and where both languages enjoy some measure
of prestige. For example, data from Welsh–English bilingual chil-
dren have suggested they do not suffer academic hardship (Gath-
ercole, 2010), although it may also be relevant that in Wales,
parents have the option of sending their children to Welsh lan-
guage schools. Perhaps relatedly, some evidence has suggested
that educational programs that provide instruction in language
minority children’s heritage language do a better job of supporting
academic success among language minority students than do other
educational approaches (Genesee & Lindholm-Leary, 2012).
The relation of language minority children’s oral language
skills to academic achievement. The evidence that oral lan-
guage skills in English are related to literacy and academic
achievement, which was reviewed as it pertained to low-SES
children, is also relevant to the question of whether low levels of
English skill cause difficulties for children from language minority
homes. The data from monolingual children have made it clear that
low levels of English oral language skill are a handicap in school.
However, the relations could be different for children who know
8HOFF
two languages, either because their English skills do not fully
reflect the abilities they bring to the task of achieving in school or
because their skills in another language transfer to English literacy
tasks. Here we review the evidence on the relation of English oral
language skills to the acquisition of literacy and academic achieve-
ment in English among language minority children, and we also
review the evidence on the relation of language minority children’s
skills in their heritage language to their acquisition of English
literacy.
A recent systematic evaluation of the literature concluded that
the relation of English language skills to the acquisition of English
literacy in bilingual children is much the same as it is for mono-
lingual children (August & Shanahan, 2006). Phonological pro-
cessing skills, including phonological awareness, are strong pre-
dictors of decoding skills; other skills, including vocabulary size,
matter less at the decoding stage. Reading comprehension, how-
ever, does depend on broad English oral language skills, including
vocabulary knowledge and syntactic skills (August & Shanahan,
2006). Subsequent studies have also found that English oral lan-
guage skills have a large effect on English reading comprehension
among elementary school children from Spanish-speaking homes
(Gottardo & Mueller, 2009; Lesaux, Cross, Kieffer, & Pierce,
2010).
There are also relations between bilingual children’s oral lan-
guage skills in their home language and their acquisition of literacy
in English. Phonological awareness, morphological awareness, and
higher order comprehension skills acquired and assessed in the
heritage language appear to transfer to the task of learning to read
in English (Durgunog˘lu, 2009; Geva & Wang, 2001; Riches &
Genesee, 2006). Throughout elementary school, literacy skills in
one language are correlated with literacy skills in the other lan-
guage, more so than oral language skills correlate across languages
(Oller & Eilers, 2002). Although there remain unanswered ques-
tions about the degree to which such language transfer may differ
among different heritage languages and may depend on the level of
proficiency achieved in that language (Oller & Jarmulowicz,
2007), the conclusion this work suggests is that bilingual children
need to know the vocabulary and grammar of the language in
which they will learn to read but that their prior experiences with
language and literacy in another language will also confer benefits.
Relatedly, children’s early experience with books in their first
language is predictive of their reading comprehension skills in the
second language (Goldenberg, Reese, & Rezaei, 2011). Bilingual
children may also derive academic benefits from the metalinguistic
and cognitive advantages associated with bilingualism. In partic-
ular, the greater phonological awareness found in Spanish–English
bilingual children compared with English monolingual children
(Bialystok, Majumder, & Martin, 2003) should help in the early
stages of the acquisition of English literacy.
Oral language skills as the mediator of the language minor-
ity gap in academic achievement. Although there is agreement
that proficiency in oral English is necessary for academic success
in the United States, some evidence has suggested that low oral
language skills in the majority language do not carry the same
negative implication for academic achievement in bilingual chil-
dren as they do in monolingual children. For example, elementary
school bilingual children have been found to perform better in
verbal memory tasks than their single-language vocabulary size
would predict, even though vocabulary is a predictor of task
performance in both monolinguals and bilinguals (Bialystok &
Feng, 2011), and bilingual students in college have been found to
have higher grade point averages than their SAT scores would
predict, although SAT scores predict grade point in both monolin-
guals and bilinguals (Pearson, 1993). A more profound argument
for why low language skills are not the same risk factor for
bilingual children as they are for monolingual children has to do
with the relation between language skills and their antecedents in
experience (Snow, 1982). For monolingual children, the size of
their vocabulary is a gauge of the richness of their experience.
Bilingual children have experiences in another language that build
their understandings of the world but are not reflected in their
English language vocabularies. The literature does not provide
data that would allow estimating the portion of the achievement
gap between children from language minority and monolingual
homes that is attributable solely to differences in English oral
language skill at school entry.
What Are the Sources of the Different Early Oral
Language Skills in Language Minority Children?
Because the average level of education and average level of
income among parents in language minority homes is lower than
the national average (Hernandez, 2004), it is likely that some
portion of the differences in English language skill between lan-
guage minority and monolingual children reflect the effects of
SES. However, the English skill differences between monolingual
English-speaking children and language minority children likely
also reflect differences in exposure to English. Studies of mono-
lingual development have clearly demonstrated that the amount of
talk addressed to children predicts the children’s rates of language
development (Hoff, 2006). Studies of bilingual development have
indicated that bilingual development is not exempt from the re-
quirement of language exposure—among bilingual children, their
relative amount of exposure to each language is correlated with
both their relative and absolute levels of development in each
language (e.g., De Houwer, 2009; Gathercole & Thomas, 2009;
Goldenberg, Rueda, & August, 2006; Hoff et al., 2012; Pearson et
al., 1997; Place & Hoff, 2011; Saunders & O’Brien, 2006). Be-
cause children who are exposed to a language other than English
at home are likely to hear less English than are children in
monolingual English-speaking homes, their English language de-
velopment lags behind that of monolingual English-speaking chil-
dren.
Language minority children’s English skills not only reflect how
much exposure to English they have had but also the sources of
that English exposure. Children who hear English from several
different people have more advanced English skills than do chil-
dren who have fewer sources of English exposure, over and above
effects of the amount of time children are exposed to English
(Place & Hoff, 2011). This may be an effect of the density of
language exposure provided by multiple speakers, or it may be an
effect of the richness and variability in input that comes from
hearing multiple speakers.
The findings of two studies have suggested that English input
provided by native speakers of English is more supportive of
English language development than is input provided by nonnative
speakers. Place and Hoff (2011) found that together the number of
different English speakers and the proportion of English input
9
INTERPRETING EARLY LANGUAGE TRAJECTORIES
provided by native speakers were a significant source of variance
in bilingual 2-year-olds English language skills, over and above
the variance accounted for by the number of hours of English
exposure. Hammer, Davison, Lawrence, and Miccio (2009) found
in a sample of Head Start children with Spanish-speaking parents
that children whose parents spoke more English to them did not
have stronger English skills, but they did have weaker Spanish
skills.
In sum, although the ability of children to acquire language is
remarkable, it is not magical. Language acquisition depends on the
amount and nature of language exposure. In the long run, exposure to
two languages potentially yields the benefit of proficiency in two
languages. In the short run, however, children exposed to and acquir-
ing two languages will acquire each at a somewhat slower rate than
will children acquiring one (Hoff et al., 2012), and many children
from language minority homes will not have had sufficient exposure
to English to achieve the same level of oral language skill as have
monolingual English-speaking children by the time they enter school.
Are the Early Language Skills of Language Minority
Children a Deficiency to Be Remedied, or a Difference
to Be Accommodated by Schools?
Bilingual children have an obvious skill that monolingual chil-
dren do not: They know two languages. The fact that many adults
spend a great deal of money trying to learn a second language
suggests a certain consensus that knowing two languages is a
desirable developmental outcome. (The language instruction soft-
ware company Rosetta Stone reported $173.8 million in U.S. sales
for 2010; Rosetta Stone, 2011). In addition to the social and
economic value of bilingualism for anyone who speaks two lan-
guages, bilingualism has a particular benefit for the children of
immigrants. Bilingualism allows them to communicate with their
parents and grandparents, who may not be proficient in English.
Good family relations, successful social adaptation, and school
success have all been found to be related to children’s ability to
speak their heritage language (Oh & Fuligni, 2010; Tseng &
Fuligni, 2000). Despite this, bilingualism is not a universally
valued outcome. Often in the United States, the ability to speak a
language other than English is a valued skill for children of the
middle class but not for children from lower SES homes, whose
other language is the heritage language of their immigrant parents.
Bilingualism confers advantages beyond the ability to speak
another language. Bilingual children and adults reliably show
superior performance on a range of tasks related to executive
function and attentional control (Akhtar & Menjivar, 2012; Bia-
lystok, 2005, 2009; Bialystok, Craik, & Freedman, 2007; Wod-
niecka, Craik, Luo, & Bialystok, 2010). Bilingual children show
more advanced metalinguistic skills than do monolingual children
(Bialystok, 2009; Bialystok & Feng, 2011), and some studies have
found bilingual children to have more advanced concepts of print
than do monolinguals (Bialystok & Feng, 2011). Spanish–English
bilingual children show greater phonological awareness than do
monolingual English-speaking children (Bialystok et al., 2003),
perhaps because the transparency of Spanish orthography makes
the principle that letters stand for sounds more apparent. Some
findings have suggested that living in bilingual environments
fosters children’s development of the ability to understand the
intentions and knowledge of others (Akhtar & Menjivar, 2012).
Although there are multiple ways to make the point that bilingual-
ism is a difference that should be valued and embraced, it is also true
that at school entry many bilingual children have levels of English
language skills that are an obstacle to their academic achievement.
Educational programs to meet the needs of bilingual children can and
should be improved. Some research has suggested that dual language
approaches, which provide instruction in both English and children’s
heritage language, are associated with high levels of academic
achievement among bilingual children (Genesee & Lindholm-Leary,
2012). There is not, however, consensus in the field of bilingual
education concerning the most effective approach (August & Shana-
han, 2006). There is also the problem that many different heritage
languages are spoken by bilingual children in the U.S. school system
and even by children in the same classroom. The success of bilingual
education in places where bilingual children all speak the same two
languages, such as Quebec and Wales, may be difficult to replicate in
the United States. So long as there is not a clear solution to the
problems caused by the low levels of English language skills that
characterize many children from homes in which a language other
than English is spoken, their different trajectories can have negative
academic consequences.
Conclusion
The purpose of the foregoing review of the literatures on the early
language skills of low-SES and language minority children was to
bring data to bear on the question of whether the differences between
these children and monolingual, middle-class children should be
interpreted as deficits to be remedied or as valued differences to be
embraced and supported. The evidence argues that although both
groups of children have mastered styles of language use, dialects, and
languages that serve them well in their homes and communities, many
children from both groups also have weaknesses in their English
language skills that are an obstacle to their achievement in English
language schools. By the pragmatic criterion of interpreting a differ-
ence as a deficit if it has negative consequences for children’s prob-
ability of future success, these differences are deficits.
The evidence also argues that the cause of these deficits is in the
amount and nature of the children’s early language experience. Chil-
dren who reach school age with strong English oral language skills of
the sort that are predictors of academic success have acquired those
skills as the result of years of experience interacting with responsive,
conversational adults who talk to them using rich vocabularies and
grammatically complex and varied utterances. Children from lower
SES homes frequently have lower levels of the sort of English
language skills that school requires because lower SES parents tend to
talk less to their children, they tend to be more directive and less
conversational in the functions of their speech, and they tend to use a
more restricted vocabulary and range of grammatical structures. Chil-
dren from language minority homes also often have lower levels of
those English language skills. The most obvious reason is that they
have had less experience with English because their language expe-
rience is divided between two languages. Children from language
minority homes may have language experiences and resultant lan-
guage skills in a language other than English, and some of these skills
transfer and benefit the acquisition of literacy in English; thus they are
less disadvantaged than their English-only skills would suggest. How-
ever, many children from language minority homes have not had
10 HOFF
enough exposure to English to acquire the oral language skills nec-
essary to achieve in school.
The conclusion that low-SES and language minority children
have deficits in their English-language skills is politically sensi-
tive. The issues of how to interpret the different patterns of
linguistic strength and weakness in low-SES children and the issue
of whether to value the heritage language skills of bilingual chil-
dren have long and somewhat inglorious histories (see, e.g., Blank,
1982; Crago, 2006; Hakuta, 1986; Vernon-Feagans et al., 2001).
The interpretation of any difference as a deficit has unhelpful
associations with classist and racist arguments of the past. In
reaction to the cultural imperialism of some early approaches, it is
sometimes argued that it is not appropriate to make direct com-
parisons between outcomes associated with different social
groups—that all language developmental trajectories are equally
valid. That argument does a disservice to the children who expe-
rience difficulty in school because of weak English skills. Declar-
ing all language skills equally valid does not change the causal
relation between particular English language skills and the acqui-
sition of literacy in English. Declaring all developmental trajecto-
ries equally valid ignores the fact that all children must find their
place in the same larger society. It ignores the national economic
necessity of educating all children to be productive members of
society, and it ignores the hopes of the parents who want their
children to succeed in school.
Some might argue that the different patterns of skill displayed
by children from low-SES and language minority homes only
appear to be deficits because of the way schools and teachers
operate. No doubt schools could be improved. Schools should
respect all children and should be welcoming places for all chil-
dren. However, schools cannot change the reading process so that
it does not depend on oral language skill, and the central role of
language as the means of instruction is not easily circumvented.
Although some skills acquired in a heritage language will transfer
to the acquisition of English literacy, children in the United States
still need to acquire English in order to succeed. For bilingual
children, it is possible to argue that the school could provide
children instruction in their stronger language until their English
skills catch up. In some locales and for some languages, that may
be feasible. Given the large number of different heritage languages
in the United States, heritage language instruction may be difficult
to implement for all children from language minority homes.
The argument that low-SES and bilingual children have deficits in
the English language skills they need to succeed in school is not an
argument that their skills in other styles, dialects, or languages should
be diminished or replaced. To the contrary, efforts to support the
development of academically necessary English language skills
should add to the repertoire of skills the children bring from home.
Humans are capable of mastering more than one style, dialect, or
language, and they are capable of switching styles and languages to fit
the social circumstance (Reyes & Ervin-Tripp, 2010).
The implication of the evidence reviewed here and the resultant
interpretation of the language trajectories of low-SES and lan-
guage minority children as deficits is a call to provide extra
support for the development of English skills, while also valuing
and making use of children’s home language skills. Other research
findings not reviewed here have argued that extra support must
begin early and be sustained so long as children’s skill levels place
them at risk. The differences among children in language skills
they possess at school entry reflect the cumulative effect of dif-
ferences in experiences from infancy (Halle et al., 2009; Hoff,
2006; Huttenlocher et al., 2010). Language development takes
time, even for children, and children who start school with low
levels of English skill do not catch up easily or quickly (Paradis,
2007; Tabors, 1997).
To summarize, the evidence that differences in the language tra-
jectories of children from low-SES and language minority homes
contribute to their low levels of academic achievement argues that
those differences in trajectories should be interpreted as deficits.
Evidence that a major source of those differences in language trajec-
tories is differences in language experience points to a target for
intervention. Efforts should be directed toward developing and im-
plementing interventions that will remedy those deficits in order to
help all children achieve their maximum potential. The alternative
interpretation—that their different trajectories are not deficits and
should be embraced—will not close achievement gaps that have
causes in the children’s lack of readiness for school.
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Received May 23, 2011
Revision received October 3, 2011
Accepted October 14, 2011 !
14 HOFF
... Literacy rates in South Africa are low, with the cycle of poverty being continued by these low literacy rates (Spaull, 2015). Language abilities during the preschool years have been shown to correlate with later literacy skills and therefore academic achievement (Hoff, 2013). Therefore, if one promotes children's language development, literacy skills will in turn increase. ...
... Hart and Risley (1995) also found that the amount of verbal input from the mother (or maternal figure) differed between populations of different SES. Hoff (2013) states that the education of the mother might be the aspect of SES which relates most to the child's language development, and Hoff (2003) showed that aspects (such as quantity, lexical richness, and sentence complexity) of the mother's speech highlighted differences in 2-year-old children's vocabulary, proving that the input and language acquisition link is causal (Hoff, 2013). Hoff (2003) found that caregivers from the higher SES communities use more words with a greater variety, and use longer sentence structures, compared to the caregivers from the lower SES communities This means that more educated mothers will speak differently to their children, and will in turn enable the child to develop vocabulary and language skills that a child from a LSES family would not develop in the same way, if at all. ...
... Hart and Risley (1995) also found that the amount of verbal input from the mother (or maternal figure) differed between populations of different SES. Hoff (2013) states that the education of the mother might be the aspect of SES which relates most to the child's language development, and Hoff (2003) showed that aspects (such as quantity, lexical richness, and sentence complexity) of the mother's speech highlighted differences in 2-year-old children's vocabulary, proving that the input and language acquisition link is causal (Hoff, 2013). Hoff (2003) found that caregivers from the higher SES communities use more words with a greater variety, and use longer sentence structures, compared to the caregivers from the lower SES communities This means that more educated mothers will speak differently to their children, and will in turn enable the child to develop vocabulary and language skills that a child from a LSES family would not develop in the same way, if at all. ...
... Our findings are consistent with this evidence and provide proof of the negative relation between maternal depressive symptomatology and child language development at a very early age in a Latin-American country where these mediators are not commonly available data. Considering that maternal education has been identified as the most important component of SES for predicting children's language development (Hoff, 2013), our findings have established relations between lower levels of education, higher levels of maternal ...
... In particular, stimulation of child cognitive development and caregiver sensitivity mediated the maternal education gap, reducing it to zero. These findings agree with the evidence that SES may influence the ways in which parents communicate with their children, which in turn results in variations in children's language development (Hoff, 2013). Unlike Raviv et al. (2004) who found that maternal sensitivity partially mediated the association between SES and children's expressive and receptive language skills at age 3, we found this association for receptive language but not for expressive language, at age 1. ...
Article
Maternal education is associated with early child outcomes. However, the several mechanisms that may explain this relationship remain underexplored. Using data from 1,097 children aged 12–15 months in Chile, we estimate the maternal education gap across child cognitive and language outcomes. Following a bioecological perspective, we explore potential pathways by which maternal education might influence child development, such as child characteristics, the quantity and quality of mother–child interactions, and the availability of home stimulation. We found an average maternal education gap between children with mothers with the lowest and the highest educational levels of 0.36, 0.31, and 0.25 standard deviation in child cognition, expressive language, and receptive language, respectively. The mediational analysis showed that maternal stress and depression and the quality of the home environment mediated the relation between maternal education and child language and cognitive development.
... Indeed, Vygotsky theorized that children's language acquisition occurs in and is inherent to the social environment (Vygotsky, 1986). It is well documented that socioeconomically advantaged caregivers tend to talk more, use more diverse vocabulary, and engage in higher quality language interactions with their children compared to caregivers from less-advantaged backgrounds (Gilkerson et al., 2017;Golinkoff et al., 2019;Hart & Risley, 1995;Hoff, 2013;Rowe, 2008). Moreover, many children grow up in environments with structural inequalities that may impact learning (i.e. ...
... As children refine more global labels and allow for more precise vocabulary, children learn where the linguistic boundaries of their native language exist and, hence, their semantic space becomes refined. It is well-established that children from disadvantaged backgrounds experience less language exposure compared to their more advantaged peers (Gilkerson et al., 2017;Golinkoff et al., 2019;Hart & Risley, 1995;Hoff, 2013;Rowe, 2008). Exactly how this disadvantage influences children's adult-like use of words is currently being investigated. ...
Article
Previous research demonstrates that children delineate more nuanced color boundaries with increased exposure to their native language. As socioeconomic status (SES) is known to correlate with differences in the amount of language input children receive, this study attempts to extend previous research by asking how both age (age 3 vs 5) and SES (under-resourced vs advantaged) might impact color name acquisition of preschool children. The results confirm the findings of previous research, showing that older children labeled the color continuum more accurately than did younger participants. In addition, we found that while SES did not make a difference in how children labeled the continuum using basic color terms (e.g. blue), basic color terms with achromatic modifiers (e.g. light blue), and compound terms (e.g. blueish-green), 5-year-olds from more advantaged economic environments used significantly more non-basic color terms (e.g. turquoise) compared to their counterparts from under-resourced environments. We suggest that, as children hear more non-basic terms, these world-to-word mappings become solidified, and exposure to such labels may contribute to the timing of when children can map those terms to the color continuum.
... Based on international and Danish research on children's early language development Bornstein et al., 2004;Fenson et al., 2007;Hoff, 2013Hoff, , 2014Wehberg et al., 2007), we identified important milestones in the language development of 3-5-year-old children (see Section 1.3). ...
Book
This Element has two main purposes. Firstly, it discusses purposes, advantages, and disadvantages as well as the challenges of different formats of language assessment, concluding with a focus on educator-administered language assessment in early childhood and education programs. It addresses the selection of assessment domains, the trade-off between brevity and precision, the challenge of assessing bilinguals, and accommodating the requirements of funders (e.g., government agencies) and users (e.g., educators and schools). It draws on lessons learned from developing two instruments for a national Danish-language and preliteracy assessment program. Secondly, it introduces those two educator-administered instruments-Language Assessment 3-6 (LA 3-6) and Language Assessment 2-year-olds (LA 2)-with respect to content, norming, gender and socioeconomic influences as well as psychometric qualities. The intention is that this experience can help enable the extension of the educator-based approach to other languages and contexts, while simultaneously acknowledging that linguistic and cultural adaptations are crucial.
... 2006). Given language skills highly predict later achievement outcomes in ELs (Hoff, 2013;Kieffer, 2012), more research that seeks to understand this population to better meet their linguistic needs in educational programs are critically needed to address the well-documented achievement gap between Spanish-speaking ELs and their monolingual English-speaking peers. ...
Article
Purpose: The purpose of this study was to identify and describe latent dual language profiles in a large sample of school-age Spanish-English bilingual children designated as English learners (ELs) by their school district. Method: Data for this study include 847 Spanish-speaking ELs from kindergarten to third grade. Spanish and English narrative retell language samples were collected from all participants. Four oral language measures were calculated in Spanish and English, including the subordination index, moving average type-token ratio, narrative structure scheme (NSS), and words per minute using Systematic Analysis of Language Transcript. These indicator measures were used in a latent profile analysis to identify dual language profiles. Results: The optimal model represents a four-profile solution, including a Spanish-dominant group (average Spanish, low English), an English-dominant group (low Spanish, average English), and two balanced groups (a balanced-average group and a balanced-high group). Additionally, participants displayed uneven performance across language domains and distinct patterns of unique strength or weakness in a specific domain in one of their two languages. Conclusions: Findings from this study highlight the large variability in English and Spanish oral language abilities in school-age Spanish-speaking ELs and suggest that a dichotomous classification of ELs versus English-proficient students may not be sufficient to determine the type of educational program that best fits a specific bilingual child's need. These findings highlight the need to assess both languages across multiple language domains to paint a representative picture of a bilingual child's language abilities. The dual language profiles identified may be used to guide the educational program selection process to improve the congruence among the linguistic needs of an individual child, teachers' use of instructional language, and the goals of the educational program (i.e., improving English proficiency vs. supporting dual language development). Supplemental material: https://doi.org/10.23641/asha.20151836.
Chapter
Learning to read is an essential skill that has far reaching implications for healthy development and success in adulthood. As such, understanding the development of emergent literacy skills is important for clinicians to support appropriate development and screen for potential delays in acquisition of these skills. Promotion of literacy rich home environments and shared reading is an essential component of pediatric primary care, which can support children as they learn to read, encourage a love of reading, and foster safe and nurturing relationships that form the foundation of healthy growth and development across all domains. In fact, it is within the context of these healthy relationships and positive experiences with trusted adults that children are able to thrive. Books and shared book reading can provide and important framework for clinicians to discuss the importance of these relationships.
Article
Purpose Caregiver-implemented interventions are frequently used to support the early communication of young children with language impairment. Although there are numerous studies and meta-analyses supporting their use, there is a need to better understand the intervention approaches and identify potential gaps in the research base. With that premise, we conducted a scoping review to synthesize existing data with an end goal of informing future research directions. Method We identified relevant studies by comprehensively searching four databases. After deduplication, we screened 5,703 studies. We required included studies ( N = 59) to evaluate caregiver-implemented communication interventions and include at least one caregiver communication outcome measure. We extracted information related to the (a) study, child, and caregiver characteristics; (b) intervention components (e.g., strategies taught, delivery method and format, and dosage); and (c) caregiver and child outcome measures (e.g., type, quality, and level of evidence). Results We synthesized results by age group of the child participants. There were no studies with children in the prenatal through 11-month-old age range identified in our review that yielded a caregiver language outcome measure with promising or compelling evidence. For the 12- through 23-month group, there were seven studies, which included eight communication intervention groups; for the 24- through 35-month group, there were 21 studies, which included 26 intervention groups; and for the 36- through 48-month group, there were 21 studies, which included 23 intervention groups. Across studies and age groups, there was considerable variability in the reporting of study characteristics, intervention approaches, and outcome measures. Conclusion Our scoping review highlights important research gaps and inconsistencies in study reporting that should be addressed in future investigations. Supplemental Material https://doi.org/10.23641/asha.20289195
Article
This paper presents a vulnerability framework as a means to contextualize inequities in reading achievement among children who are vulnerable to poor reading outcomes. Models to understand vulnerability have been applied in the social sciences and public health to identify population disparities and design interventions to improve outcomes. Vulnerability is multifaceted and governed by context. Using a vulnerability framework for the science of reading provides an innovative approach for acknowledging multilevel factors contributing to disparities. The ecological considerations of both individual differences in learners and conditions within and outside of schools ensures that scientific advances are realized for learners who are more vulnerable to experiencing reading difficulty in school.
Article
The purpose of the study was to examine word learning in preschool children from families who differed in socioeconomic status (SES). Preschool children ( N = 58) were assigned to SES groups based on maternal education and completed a dynamic assessment of explicit word learning 2 times. At the first administration, no SES-group differences were observed. At the second administration, children from high-SES homes had significantly higher scores than children from low-SES homes on the production probe with a large effect size ( d = 1.01). Descriptively, children in both groups responded more frequently at more difficult prompting levels at the second session, but children in the low-SES group had more incorrect responses than children in the high-SES group. Additional research using sensitive measures of word-learning proficiency is necessary to better understand the way in which SES and early language experiences are related to word learning in young children.
Article
This book sets a high standard for rigor and scientific approach to the study of bilingualism and provides new insights regarding the critical issues of theory and practice, including the interdependence of linguistic knowledge in bilinguals, the role of socioeconomic status, the effect of different language usage patterns in the home, and the role of schooling by single-language immersion as opposed to systematic training in both home and target languages. The rich landscape of outcomes reported in the volume will provide a frame for interpretation and understanding of effects of bilingualism for years to come.
Chapter
When the original thirteen colonies gained their independence from England in 1776 and struggled to become the United States, one of the defining characteristics of the new nation and the lands that it would eventually exploit and conquer was multilingualism (Kloss, 1977). In addition to native American Indian languages groups, new groups of European immigrants streamed into the country to settle in the lands taken from the native American Indians. One of the first actions taken by the many immigrant settler groups was to set up schools which taught their children through their native language, with the goal of fluent bilingualism. These early attempts at bilingual education were tolerated throughout the 19th century, but came to an abrupt end following World War I. Using a language other than English was viewed as un-American behavior.
Article
This article establishes that a low-dimensional vector of cognitive and noncognitive skills explains a variety of labor market and behavioral outcomes. Our analysis addresses the problems of measurement error, imperfect proxies, and reverse causality that plague conventional studies. Noncognitive skills strongly influence schooling decisions and also affect wages, given schooling decisions. Schooling, employment, work experience, and choice of occupation are affected by latent noncognitive and cognitive skills. We show that the same low-dimensional vector of abilities that explains schooling choices, wages, employment, work experience, and choice of occupation explains a wide variety of risky behaviors.