Identifying Differences in Early Literacy Skills Across Subgroups of Language-Minority Children: A Latent Profile Analysis

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Abstract

Despite acknowledgment that language-minority children come from a wide variety of home language backgrounds and have a wide range of proficiency in their first (L1) and second (L2) languages, it is unknown whether differences across language-minority children in relative and absolute levels of proficiency in L1 and L2 predict subsequent development of literacy-related skills. The purpose of this study was to identify subgroups of language-minority children and evaluate whether differences in level and rate of growth of early literacy skills differed across subgroups. Five-hundred and twenty-six children completed measures of Spanish and English language and early literacy skills at the beginning, middle, and end of the preschool year. Latent growth models indicated that children’s early literacy skills were increasing over the course of the preschool year. Latent profile analysis indicated that language-minority children could be classified into nine distinct groups, each with unique patterns of absolute and relative levels of proficiency in L1 and L2. Results of three-step mixture models indicated that profiles were closely associated with level of early literacy skills at the beginning of the preschool year. Initial level of early literacy skills was positively associated with growth in code-related skills (i.e., print knowledge, phonological awareness) and inversely associated with growth in language skills. These findings suggest that language-minority children are a diverse group with regard to their L1 and L2 proficiencies and that growth in early literacy skills is most associated with level of proficiency in the same language.

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