The development of reading skills in children with English as a second language

Orly Lipka, Linda S. Siegel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


One goal of this longitudinal study was to examine whether the predictors of reading skills in Grade 3 would differ between English as a second language (ESL) students and native English-speaking (L1) students. Phonological processing, syntactic awareness, memory, spelling, word reading, and lexical access skills were assessed in kindergarten and in Grade 3. The results indicated that in kindergarten, the ESL group had significantly lower scores on phonological processing, syntactic awareness, spelling, and memory for sentences tasks. However, in Grade 3, the ESL group performed in a similar way to the L1 group except on the syntactic awareness task. The combination of the two kindergarten measures, memory for sentences and Oral Cloze, and the combination of phonological processing and letter identification all contributed equally to predicting the L1 students' word-reading skills. However, for ESL students, letter identification and phonological processing made much larger contributions to predicting Grade 3 reading ability. Another goal of this study was to assess the procedures used to identify reading disability in the ESL and L1 student sample. Performance on two measures - letter identification and phonological awareness in kindergarten - predicted whether students would be classified in Grade 3 as at risk or having typical reading development for the ESL and L1 groups. The ESL children developed strong reading skills, and their status as ESL speakers did not put them at risk for reading difficulties in Grade 3. ESL students were not at any particular risk for reading difficulties after 4 years in Canadian schooling with an adequate balanced literacy program.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-131
Number of pages27
JournalScientific Studies of Reading
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by a grant from the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada to L. S. Siegel. We thank Fran Blake, Robin Brayne, Lorna Bennett, Heather Calder, Audrey Hobbs-Johnson, Larry Johnson, Laurie McDonald, Jay Merilees, Cathy Molinski, Pam Ottley, Linda Pearson, Ann Tarves, Mary Tennant, Brian Ward, Rochelle Watts, Anne Woodcock, and the principals, teachers, parents, and students of the North Vancouver School District for their support and participation in this study. Furthermore, we thank Professor Bruno Zumbo for his valuable support and insight in the data analyses process.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)


Dive into the research topics of 'The development of reading skills in children with English as a second language'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this