Cognitive, language, and literacy development in socio-culturally vulnerable school children - the case of ethiopian israeli children

Michal Shany, Esther Geva

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter presents results of research that targeted the development of language and literacy skills in elementary level children whose parents immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia. The performance of Ethiopian Israeli children in grades 1, 2, 4, and 6 was compared to that of their classmates, whose families were not from an Ethiopian background. All participating schools were located in low SES neighborhoods. However, on various indices (for example, crowded living conditions, parental employment and literacy levels) the Ethiopian families were more destitute than the families of the non-Ethiopian children. In this chapter we examine cultural literacy, cognitive, linguistic, and literacy development across the grades, and compare the Ethiopian and Non-Ethiopian groups with regard to development on these dimensions. We also examine the extent to which the performance of the Ethiopian Israeli children can be better understood by considering their language and literacy resources in Amharic. Results indicate that there were either no gaps or the gaps disappeared on low level processing components such as phonemic awareness and decoding skills. However, the gaps between the groups persisted or increased on higher-level aspects of literacy that involve cultural knowledge, language skills and reading comprehension. Given this worrisome pattern, it is not surprising that Ethiopian children struggle with academic demands of high school. The results underscore the importance of providing early and consistent language and literacy enrichment to these children. Policy implications and implication for instruction are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCurrent Issues in Bilingualism
Subtitle of host publicationCognitive and Socio-linguistic Perspectives
PublisherSpringer Netherlands
Number of pages41
ISBN (Electronic)9789400723276
ISBN (Print)9789400723269
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2012

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012.


  • Cognition
  • Development
  • Elementary school
  • Ethiopian-Israeli-children
  • Immigrants
  • Language
  • Literacy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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