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French immersion experience and reading skill development in at-risk readers



We tracked the developmental influences of exposure to French on developing English phonological awareness, decoding and reading comprehension of English-speaking at-risk readers from Grade 1 to Grade 3. Teacher-nominated at-risk readers were matched with not-at-risk readers in French immersion and English language programs. Exposure to spoken French phonetic and syllabic forms and to written French orthographic and morphological forms by children attending French immersion programs was expected to promote phonological, decoding and reading comprehension achievement. Growth in all outcomes was found, with children in immersion experiencing higher final status in phonological awareness and more rapid growth and higher final status in decoding, using multilevel modeling. At-risk readers in French immersion experienced faster growth and higher final status in reading comprehension. Benefits to reading of exposure to an additional language are discussed in relation to cross-language transfer, phonological grain size and enhanced executive control processes.


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Richard S. Kruk, Department of Psychology, 190 Dysart Road, Winnipeg, MB, Canada R3T 2N2. e-mail:


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This study was supported by a standard research grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. The authors thank Jane Ritcher, Antonella Sciangula and Jaga Beimcik for assistance in data collection, and the children, parents and teachers who participated in the study.



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French immersion experience and reading skill development in at-risk readers



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