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Assessing Phonological Sensitivity in Hispanic Head Start Children as a Precursor to Literacy

Resource Type: Administration for Children and Families/OPRE Projects
Principal Investigator(s): Lopez, Lisa M.;
Date Issued: 1999
Description: The purpose of this study was to assess pre-literacy skills of low-income Hispanic Head Start children by (1) creating a comparable measure of English and Spanish phonological sensitivity for this population, (2) assessing internal consistency among children's Spanish and English phonological skills, (3) determining the relationship between phonological awareness and oral language skills in this sample, and (4) identifying a cross-language transfer of skills. A phonological assessment tool was developed and modified during the first year of the project with a sample of 50 Spanish-speaking Head Start children. During the second year, the tool was used to determine the phonological sensitivity of 100 4- to 5-year-old Spanish-speaking Head Start children. These children were drawn from three selected Head Start centers in Miami-Dade County, Florida serving the Hispanic population. The tool was composed of tasks used by other researchers in English. The tasks included a rhyme-matching task, an alliteration-matching task, and a sentence-segmenting task. The children were assessed on these tasks in both English and Spanish. Additionally, the PRE-LAS 2000 was used to measure oral language proficiency in English and Spanish. Analyses provided quantitative information of individual children's phonological awareness and language proficiency in two languages. A similar relationship was identified between oral language and phonological awareness in both languages, independently. However, the children's oral language skills were much better defined in Spanish. A cross language transfer of phonological awareness skills was also identified with phonological awareness skills in Spanish, along with English oral language skills, playing a major factor in the children's English phonological awareness abilities. Implications include the importance of assessing bilingual children in both languages, as well as the importance of strengthening the child's primary language and literacy skills prior to literacy instruction in the second language.

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