Examining Reading Development and Reading Disability in English Language Learners: Potential Contributions from Functional Neuroimaging

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Neuroimaging studies have suggested that across different written languages, skilled reading behavior is supported by similar, largely left hemisphere (LH), networks. In addition, recent studies of reading disability (RD) in monolingual readers, conducted in several languages, suggest a common neurobiological signature for this syndrome (disruption of LH posterior regions that support fluent reading). Thus, at the neurobiological level of analysis, reading and its disorders appear to be more similar than dissimilar across languages. In this article, we consider the neurobiology of reading development and RD in English language learners (ELL). There is some evidence suggesting that fluent bilingual readers tend to engage primarily overlapping circuits for both L1 and L2. There is, however, a paucity of neurobiological research on both reading development and RD in this population. Using the existing research on RD as a starting point, we consider in this article how developmental neuroimaging techniques might be applied to (1) help identify RD readers in the ELL populations, and (2) provide neurobiological outcome measures to help evaluate the efficacy of different approaches to the teaching of reading in English.

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