Benefits of literacy interventionsto early readers with specific language weaknesses. (2019)
Type of ContentElectronic Thesis or Dissertation
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
PublisherUniversity of Canterbury
AuthorsChang, Joel Ginjshow all
It has been estimated that children who learn and are exposed to two languages prior to puberty will become the majority worldwide (Tucker, 1998). Communities evolving into highly linguistically-diverse environments have the potential to pose a considerable challenge not only among individuals, but also to educational institutions, as immersion in languages learned does not guarantee linguistic proficiency. Hence, more ethnically-disparate countries, such as the Philippines and New Zealand, will need to develop responsive educational programs that accommodate successful bilingualism and support a range of learners. For example, children presenting with language learning deficits can be placed at a greater disadvantage in educational contexts, especially when this hinders proficiency in the language of education and leads to difficulties in literacy acquisition. Studies reported in this thesis focused on methods that might be valuable to reduce difficulties experienced by such populations of early learners.
The thesis studies assessed two treatment approaches: one focused on phonological awareness and a second targeted morphological skills. Both approaches were assessed to determine their efficacy in facilitating the growth of language and reading skills among children with specific language weaknesses in their first formal year of primary school. Improvements in language processing (phonological, morphological and vocabulary), word identification, and sentence comprehension in two country contexts (New Zealand and the Philippines) were the focus of the research.
In the first study, the focus was on children from monolingual versus bilingual backgrounds in New Zealand who showed evidence of weaknesses in the English language. Twenty year 1 pupils (mean age = 5.8) were selected from a group of students identified by their classroom teachers as language weak. In the second study, the sample comprised 16 typically-developing bilingual and 15 English language weak bilingual children from the Philippines (mean age = 6.3) who were all Filipino speakers but were using English as the language of education in school. In both studies, participants were screened using standardized language assessments and measures of non-verbal intelligence, basic reading skills (comprehending words and sentences), language skills (including vocabulary), phonological and morphological awareness levels. All children showed no evidence of sensory, behavioural or neurological problems and their non-verbal intelligence score was within 85 to 115 points on the Primary Test of Non-verbal Intelligence. Students with language weaknesses were those who showed poor scores in several areas of verbal language processing. The design evaluated the performance of the children at three different time points: once prior to the introduction of the interventions, once after the first intervention was given and once after the second intervention was completed. In both country contexts, roughly half of each group completed the phonological intervention first whereas the rest completed the morphological intervention first.
Results indicated that specific gains in phonological processing were observed for the phonological-based intervention across groups in both countries (New Zealand and the Philippines). However, for the New Zealand context, gains for both monolingual and bilingual language weak children were generally more evident with the phonological intervention, whereas in the Philippines, the morphological intervention showed specific gains in morphology and word meaning tasks. When students had completed both interventions, there was evidence for all groups to show gains across the range of measures used in the study. The findings suggest that providing an integrated phonological and morphological awareness intervention among school-aged children may be an effective approach to support the language and reading development of students experiencing difficulties with the acquisition of English language skills. Such positive effects may be evident whether children are from a predominantly monolingual or bilingual/second language background.