Skip to main content Accessibility help

The role of home literacy and language environment on bilinguals' English and Spanish vocabulary development



For the monolingual population, research has shown that vocabulary knowledge is closely related to reading achievement. However, the role of vocabulary has not been studied as extensively in the bilingual population. It is important to look at vocabulary to better understand reading achievement in the bilingual population in the United States. This study investigated the predictors of Spanish and English vocabulary for 96 fifth-grade Latino English language learners. Our results suggest that becoming or staying proficient in English did not require parental use of English in the home. However, proficiency in Spanish required both instructional support at school and social support at home; it is likely that the low social status of Spanish is related to its greater dependence on home support.


Corresponding author

Elisabeth Duursma, Harvard Graduate School of Education, Appian Way, 3 Larsen, Cambridge, MA 02138. E-mail:


Hide All
August D. A., Calderón M., & Carlo M. 2001. The transfer of skills from Spanish to English. NABE News, 42. 1112
August D. A., Calderón. M., & Carlo M. 2002. Transfer of skills from Spanish to English: A study of young learners. Report for practioners, parents and policy makers. Washington, DC: Center for Applied Linguistics.
Bauer D. J., Goldfield B. A., & Reznick J. S. 2002. Differences in early vocabulary development. Applied Psycholinguistics, 23, 313335.
Bialystok E. 1991. Metalinguistic dimensions of bilingual language proficiency. In E. Bialystok (Ed.), Language processing in bilingual children. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Bialystok E. 2001. Bilingualism in development: Language, literacy and cognition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Burgess S. R. 2002. The influence of speech perception, oral language ability, the home literacy environment, and pre-reading knowledge on the growth of phonological sensitivity: A one-year longitudinal investigation. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 15, 709737.
Bus A. G., Van Ijzendoorn M. H., & Pellegrini A. D. 1995. Joint book reading makes for success in learning to read: A meta-analysis on intergenerational transmission of literacy. Review of Educational Research, 65, 121.
Cipielewski J., & Stanovich K. E. 1992. Predicting growth in reading ability from children's exposure to print. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 54, 7489.
Cobo-Lewis A. B., Pearson B. Z., Eilers R. E., & Umbel V. C. 2002. Effects of bilingualism and bilingual education on oral and written Spanish skills: A multifactor study of standardized test outcomes. In D. K. Oller & R. E. Eilers (Eds.), Language and literacy in bilingual children (pp. 98117). Clevedon: Multilingual Matters Ltd.
Durgunoglu A. 1997. Bilingual reading: Its components, development, and other issues. In A. M. B. de Groot & J. F. Kroll (Eds.), Tutorials in bilingualism: Psycholinguistic perspectives. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Durgunoglu A. Y., Nagy W. E., & Hancin-Bhatt B. J. 1993. Cross-language transfer of phonological awareness. Journal of Educational Psychology, 85, 453465.
Entwisle D. R., & Astone N. M. 1994. Some practical guidelines for measuring youth's race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status. Child Development, 65, 15211540.
Feitelson D., & Goldstein Z. 1986. Patterns of book ownership and reading to young children in Israeli school-oriented and nonschool-oriented families. The Reading Teacher, 39, 924930.
Ferdman B. M., & Weber R. M. 1994. Literacy across languages and cultures. In B. M. Ferdman, R. M. Weber, & G. Ramírez (Eds.), Literacy across languages and cultures (pp. 330). Albany, NY: State University of New York.
Fisher T. A. 1999. Parental influences on career development perceived by African American and Mexican American college students. Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, 27, 136152.
Freebody P., & Anderson R. C. 1983. Effects of vocabulary difficulty, text cohesion, and schema availability on reading comprehension. Reading Research Quarterly, 18, 277323.
García G. E. 2000. Bilingual children's reading. In P. Kamil, P. Mosenthal, P. D. Pearson, & R. Barr (Eds.), Handbook of reading research (Vol. 3). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Garg R., Kauppi C., Lewko J., & Urajnik D. 2002. A structural model of educational aspirations. Journal of Career Development, 29, 87108.
Gee J. P. 2002. Literacies, identities, and discourses. In M. J. Schleppegrell & M. C. Colombi (Eds.), Developing advanced literacy in first and second languages: Meaning with power (pp. 159176). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Gauvain M., Savage S., & McCollum D. 2000. Reading at home and at school in the primary grades: Cultural and social influences. Early Education and Development, 11, 447463.
Goldenberg C., Reese L., & Gallimore R. 1992. Effects of literacy materials from school on Latino children's home experiences and early reading achievement. American Journal of Education, 100, 497536.
Grosjean F. 1982. Life with two languages: An introduction to bilingualism. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Gutierrez-Clellen V. F., & Kreiter J. 2003. Understanding child bilingual acquisition using parent and teacher reports. Applied Psycholinguistics, 24, 267288.
Hancin-Bhatt B., & Nagy W. 1994. Lexical transfer and second language morphological development. Applied Psycholinguistics, 15, 289310.
Harmon J. M. 1999. Initial encounters with unfamiliar words in independent reading. Research in the Teaching of English, 33, 304338.
Hart B., & Risley T. R. 1995. Meaningful differences in the everyday experience of young American children. Baltimore, MD: P. and H. Brookes.
Health and Human Services. 2001. Poverty guidelines. Retrieved February 16, 2005, from
Honor L. L. 2001. Hispanic Americans: A statistical sourcebook 2001 edition. Palo Alto, CA: Information Publications.
Lindsey K. A., Manis F. R., & Bailey C. E. 2003. Prediction of first-grade reading in Spanish-speaking English-language learners. Journal of Educational Psychology, 95, 482494.
Mackey W. F. 1968. The description of bilingualism. In J. A. Fishman (Ed.), Readings in the sociology of language. The Hague: Mouton.
Malakoff M., & Hakuta A. K. 1991. Translation skills and metalinguistic awareness in bilinguals. In E. Bialystok (Ed.), Language processing in bilingual children. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
National Assessment of Educational Progress. 2003. Retrieved April 17, 2006, from
Nagy W. E., Garcia G. E., Durgunoglu A., & Hancin-Bhatt B. 1993. Spanish-English bilingual children's use and recognition of cognates in English reading. Journal of Reading Behavior, 25, 241259.
Neuman S. B., & Cleano D. 2001. Access to print in low-income and middle-income communities: An ecological study of four neighborhoods. Reading Research Quarterly, 36, 826.
Padilla A. M., Lindholm K. J., Chen A., Duran R., Hakuta K., Lambert W., et al. 1991. The English-only movement: Myths, reality, and implications for psychology. American Psychologist, 46, 120130.
Payne A. C., Whitehurst G. J., & Angell A. L. 1994. The role of home literacy environment in the development of language ability in preschool children from low-income families. Early Childhood Quarterly, 9, 427440.
Pearson B. Z. 2002. Bilingual infants. In M. Suárez-Orozco & M. Páez (Eds.), Latino remaking America (pp. 306320). Los Angeles: University of California Press and David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, Harvard University.
Portes A., & Hao L. 2002. The price of uniformity: Language, family and personality adjustment in the immigrant second generation. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 25, 889912.
Qian D. D. 2002. Investigating the relationship between vocabulary knowledge and academic reading performance: An assessment perspective. Language Learning, 53, 513536.
Reese L., Garnier H., Gallimore R., & Goldenberg C. 2000. Longitudinal analysis of the antecedents of emergent Spanish literacy and middle-school English reading achievement of Spanish-speaking students. American Educational Journal, 37, 633662.
Roderick M. 2000. Hispanics and education. In P. S. J. Cafferty & D. W. Engstrom (Eds.), Hispanics in the United States. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.
Scarborough H. S., Dobrich W., & Hager M. 1991. Preschool literacy experience and later reading achievement. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 24, 508511.
Sénéchal M., LeFevre J. A., & Thomas E. M. 1998. Differential effects of home literacy experiences on the development of oral and written language. Reading Research Quarterly, 33, 96116.
Snow C. E. 2002. Reading for understanding: Toward a research and developmental program in reading comprehension (Rand Reading Study Group). Retrieved April 17, 2006, from
Stahl S. A., Chou Hare V., Sinatra R., & Gregory J. F. 1991. Defining the role of prior knowledge and vocabulary in reading comprehension: The retiring of number 41. Journal of Reading Behavior, 23, 487508.
Stoller F. L., & Grabe W. 1993. Implications for L2 vocabulary acquisition and instruction from L1 vocabulary research. In T. Huckin, M. Haynes, & J. Coady (Eds.), Second language reading and vocabulary learning. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
Suárez-Orozco C., & Suárez-Orozco M. 2001. Children of immigration. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Tabors P., Páez M., & López L. 2003. Dual language abilities of bilingual four-year olds: Initial findings from the Early Childhood Study of Language and Literacy Development of Spanish-Speaking Children. NABE Journal of Research and Practice, 1, 7091.
Tabors P. O., & Snow C. E. 2001. Young bilingual children and early literacy development. In S. B. Neuman & D. K. Dickinson (Eds.), Handbook of early literacy research (pp. 159178). New York: Guilford Press.
Valdés G. 1996. Con Respeto: Bridging the distances between culturally diverse families and Schools. An ethnographic portrait. New York: Teachers College Press.
Woodcock R. W. 1991a. Woodcock Language Proficiency Battery–Revised: English and Spanish Forms. Itasca, IL: Riverside Publishing.
Woodcock R. W. 1991b. Woodcock Language Proficiency Battery-Revised: English and Spanish Forms: Examiner's manual. Itasca, IL: Riverside Publishing.

Related content

Powered by UNSILO
Type Description Title

 PDF (119 KB)
119 KB

The role of home literacy and language environment on bilinguals' English and Spanish vocabulary development



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.