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This study examined whether measures used to identify children at risk for reading failure are appropriate for children from different language backgrounds. Tasks assessing literacy and phonological and language processing at the beginning and end of kindergarten were administered to 540 native English speakers (NS), 59 bilingual children (BL), and 60 children whose initial exposure to English was when they began school (ESL). Although the BL and ESL children performed more poorly than the NS children on most measures of phonological and linguistic processing, the acquisition of basic literacy skills for children with different language backgrounds developed in a similar manner. Furthermore, planned contrasts between the language groups did not explain the variance in the children’s literacy performance in May. Instead, alphabetic knowledge and phonological processing were important contributors to early reading skill. Therefore, children learning English may acquire literacy skills in English in a similar manner to NS children, although their alphabetic knowledge may precede and facilitate the acquisition of phonological awareness in English.


This article was originally published in Applied Psycholinguistics, 23(1): 95-116. © 2002 Cambridge University Press