The Home Literacy Environment and Latino Head Start Children's Emergent Literacy Skills

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Abstract

This study examined children's early literacy skills in both English and Spanish at entry to preschool to investigate the pattern of association among these skills and their families' home language and literacy practices. The participants were 392 primarily Latino immigrant (85%) families and their children. Mothers completed questionnaires about their families and their home literacy environment (HLE), and children's emergent literacy skills were measured in English and Spanish at the outset of the preschool year. Project assistants interviewed mothers in their homes and tallied the presence of literacy-related materials. Results of structural equation modeling showed that the 3 preliteracy skills were significantly associated within and across English and Spanish, suggesting the possible transfer of these early preliteracy skills across languages. For the English language HLE, parents' literacy-related behaviors, sibling–child reading, and families' literacy resources were all associated with children's English oral language skills, and their English print knowledge was associated with their home resources. For the Spanish language HLE, only parents' literacy-related behaviors were related to children's Spanish oral language and print knowledge skills. There were no significant cross-linguistic relations between any aspect of the English HLE and children's Spanish preliteracy skills, whereas parents' literacy-related behaviors in Spanish were negatively associated with children's English oral language and phonological awareness skills. Given the importance of oral language and vocabulary in promoting children's literacy, these results indicate that parents can support this skill in both languages, but their relative impact seems to be within rather across language.

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