English literacy development in Spanish-speaking children


The authors of this longitudinal study tracked Spanish-speaking children in California from kindergarten through 8th grade, measuring early language and literacy skills (letter knowledge, phonological awareness, word reading, vocabulary), then examined possible predictors of later literacy achievement (on state standardized tests).

Note that the children’s primary language was Spanish, which was spoken “only” or “mostly” at home, and they all transitioned to English-only instruction in kindergarten. Findings include:

  • This group of children, on average, performed below peers, state-wide, on English Language Arts tests from 3rd–8th grade.
  • Vocabulary was found to be the strongest predictor of literacy skills, particularly kindergarten English vocabulary.

Their findings are consistent with several other studies showing that English vocabulary in Kindergarten is predictive of English literacy in later elementary years (see article for review). The authors suggest that although early phonological and word-reading skills are important, the child’s language skills will be very important as well in propelling their skills as a competent reader, and state, “The current findings provide evidence for maximizing the amount of oral language opportunities for young Spanish-speaking (children).”


Grimm, R.P., Solari, E.J., & Gerber, M.M. (2017). A longitudinal investigation of reading development from kindergarten to grade eight in a Spanish-speaking bilingual population. Reading and Writing. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1007/s11145-017-9798-1.