Predicting Reading Comprehension Performance with Strategy Use:  Comparing Bilingual Children to their Monolingual Peers and to Bilingual Adults

Thematic Section: Literacy development in Canada: A bilingual focus

literacy, reading & writing, children, education, language immersion

Deanna Friesen, University of Western Ontario
Katherine Schmidt, University of Western Ontario
Taninder Atwal, University of Western Ontario
Angela Celebre, University of Western Ontario

In Canada, it is estimated that between 26.1% and 30.6% of people will have a home language other than English or French by 2036 (Statistics Canada (2017)). Thus, it becomes vitally important to have supports available for second language development in the school system. Of interest here is how effective reading strategies manifest themselves in second language readers to support reading comprehension. The current study investigated the nature and role of reading strategy use in English monolingual and bilingual students use during a reading comprehension task. Of interest was which strategies accounted for successful comprehension for each group beyond vocabulary knowledge and decoding ability. 155 students in 4th through 6th grade (95 bilinguals and 60 monolinguals) were assessed on English vocabulary, word decoding, reading comprehension and on reading strategy use. An additional 38 bilingual adults who had English as a second language were also assessed on the same measures. Results indicated that for both children groups, vocabulary knowledge and decoding ability predicted reading comprehension scores. For adults, only vocabulary knowledge was a significant language predictor. For each group, strategy use also predicted reading comprehension performance, but to different degrees with more predictive ability in the bilingual groups. Findings highlight the strategies that successful readers rely on (e.g., inferencing, making connections, reference to text structure), suggest that bilinguals have greater need to rely on these strategies and emphasize the value of promoting effective strategy selection in addition to language instruction in the development of reading comprehension skill.