Early Predictors of Reading in Three Groups of Native Spanish Speakers: Spaniards, Gypsies, and Latin Americans

By López-Escribano, Carmen; Beltrán, Jesús A. | The Spanish Journal of Psychology, January 1, 2009 | Go to article overview

Early Predictors of Reading in Three Groups of Native Spanish Speakers: Spaniards, Gypsies, and Latin Americans


López-Escribano, Carmen, Beltrán, Jesús A., The Spanish Journal of Psychology


The main purpose of the study reported here was to examine the early linguistic predictors of reading (e.g., Knowledge About Print, Listening Comprehension, Receptive Vocabulary, Rapid Naming of Objects and Letters, and Phonological Awareness), for a sample of 77 Spaniards, 48 Latinos, and 30 Gypsies kindergartens (mean age = 5 years 9 months) living in Spain. The relative contribution of ethnic background, neighbourhood socioeconomic status (SES), age, and gender was assessed. Findings revealed that ethnic background, neighborhood SES, and age differentially predicted children's pre-literacy skills. The implications of these results for understanding the role played by these demographic and socio-cultural variables in alphabetic literacy acquisition are discussed. The second purpose of this study was to add to the growing literature on the nature of reading challenges in children who are learning to read a transparent orthography-Spanish. Cross-linguistic research between different subtypes of readers will add to understand the impact of language characteristics in reading acquisition. Finally, the present study suggested that early assessment of pre-literacy skills can be a highly effective way to determine the instructional needs of students who are at risk for reading failure before formal reading instruction begins.

Keywords: reading, literacy, preschool, Spanish, minority

El objetivo principal del presente estudio fue examinar los predictores tempranos de la lectura (ej.: conocimiento sobre el material impreso, comprensión oral, vocabulario receptivo, denominación rápida de objetos y letras y conciencia fonológica), en una muestra de niños de educación infantil (edad media = 5 años y 9 meses), de los cuales 77 eran madrileños, pertenecientes a la cultura mayoritaria, 48 inmigrantes latinos y 30 madrileños de etnia gitana. La contribución relativa a la adquisición lectora del grupo étnico, estatus socioeconómico, edad y género fue evaluada. Los hallazgos revelan que el grupo étnico, estatus socioeconómico y la edad predicen de modo diferente la habilidad prelectora de los niños. Las implicaciones de estos resultados son discutidas. El segundo objetivo de este estudio fue añadir nuevos datos a la creciente literatura sobre los retos que afrontan los niños que aprenden a leer en una ortografía transparente, como es el caso del español. La investigación entre lenguas y diferentes subtipos de lectores hará que comprendamos mejor el impacto que las características de una lengua tiene en la adquisición lectora. Por último, el presente estudio sugiere que el diagnóstico temprano de las habilidades prelectoras, antes de que la instrucción formal de la lectura comience, puede ser muy efectivo para determinar las necesidades de estudiantes que se encuentran en situación de riesgo de padecer dificultades en la lectura.

Palabras clave: lectura, alfabetización, educación infantil, español, minorías étnicas

Researchers working on literacy acquisition have for some time been concerned with the prevention of reading difficulties. Accurate early prediction of individual differences in reading ability has long been an educational goal. Reading problems are found among every group, although children from minority groups and poor families are at a much greater risk of reading difficulties than are middle-class/mainstream students. Studying these demographic disparities can help us understand about the course of literacy development and identify groups that should be targeted for special prevention efforts.

Spain has historically been a multicultural society composed of diverse linguistic and cultural groups, and traditionally, for the most part an emigrants' nation. Nevertheless, as with other European Mediterranean countries, in the last 15 years, Spain has experienced significant immigration, mostly coming from Latin America due to shared historical roots and language, and from North Africa due to geographic proximity.

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