Childhood Bilingualism and Reading Difficulties Insights from Cognition and Pedagogy
Abstract: We are living in a world in which bi/multilingualism has become commonplace within everyday life for a great number of people. Research has shown that bilingualism produces various cognitive consequences. These effects are generally seen as positive and contributing to an enhanced level of cognitive processing. Bilingualism functions selectively to produce outcome performances depending on the areas that are the subject of investigation. Furthermore, the patterns of results may vary if second-language reading occurs in a dyslexic context. Thus, many children may struggle with this situation, suggesting the need for the provision of a special education agenda in schools. The intention of this dissertation is to address the abovementioned topics. In study I, the effect of bilingualism on lexical vs. non-lexical reading tasks is examined. This study finds that the pattern of the effect might vary based on the type of reading task (e.g., semantic or phonological origins for information processing). In studies II and III, the combined effect of bilingualism and reading difficulties on executive functions (working memory, inhibitory control and flexibility) and on longterm memory (episodic and semantic) is examined. These studies find that, in line with primary expectations, bilingualism in typically developed reading is associated with enhanced overall cognitive performance in either executive functioning or episodic and semantic memory. Interestingly, the combination of second-language reading and reading difficulties is associated with lower performance (longer processing time) for executive functioning and long-term memory (specifically episodic memory). It is suggested that this pattern of performance is produced by a general delayed processing profile in the context of bilingualism and reading difficulties. The findings are discussed in light of the notion of inefficient and difficult learning of new input in terms of dyslexic problems. Study IV explores special education teachers’ assumptions with respect to the type of special education services in Swedish schools with a high proportion of (bilingual) pupils with reading difficulties. The findings of this study underscore the importance of the provision of special bi-literacy education for bilingual dyslexic children in schools and the current shortcomings regarding time and knowledge resources in this regard.
CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE WHOLE DISSERTATION. (in PDF format)