Investigating cognitive and linguistic abilities that influence the reading comprehension skills of children from diverse linguistic backgrounds

Nonie K. Lesaux, Orly Lipka, Linda S. Siegel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study investigated the influence of cognitive and linguistic skills on the reading comprehension performance of a group of learners from diverse linguistic backgrounds. The study also compared the reading comprehension performance of grade 4 children who entered kindergarten with little or no experience with English (ESL) to that of a group of native English speakers. Examiners administered various tasks of reading, language, and memory to the children in the study (n=480). The sample included three comprehension groups: (1) children with poor comprehension in the absence of word reading difficulties (Poor Comprehenders; PC), (2) children with poor word reading and poor comprehension (Poor word Recognition and comprehenders; PR), and (3) children with good word reading and comprehension abilities (Good Comprehenders; GC). Due to the small sample size of PR reader group, no comparative analyses were conducted. However, the results indicated that within the GC and PC groups there were no differences between the ESL and L1 children on measures of reading and phonological processing. Further, within the GC and PC groups, on measures of syntactic awareness and verbal working memory, the ESL speakers performed at significantly lower levels than the L1 speakers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-131
Number of pages33
JournalReading and Writing
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2006
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank Rose K. Vukovic for significant contributions to previous versions of this manuscript. This research was supported by a grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada to L.S. Siegel. The authors wish to thank Robin Brayne, Jay Merilees, Larry Johnson, Cathy Molinski, Heather Calder, Ann Tarves, Audrey Hobbs-Johnson, Lorna Bennett, Fran Blake, Bea Ingram, Laurie McDonald, Pam Ottley, Linda Pearson, Mary Tennant, Brian Ward, Rochelle Watts, Anne Woodcock, and the principals, teachers, and students of the North Vancouver School District for their support and participation in this study. The authors would like to thank Sally Porter and Elenita Tseng for assistance with data collection and entry, Young Suk-Kim for assistance with data analysis, and Dave Cupp for editorial assistance.


  • ESL
  • Phonological awareness
  • Reading comprehension
  • Syntactic awareness
  • Working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing


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