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Emergent bilinguals (EBs) who are exposed to societal language at school but use another language at home may experience difficulties in mastering the societal language, especially those at risk for language and reading disabilities. Learning phonologically specific new words that discriminate between phonemes may foster phonological awareness and word reading. This study examined the effectiveness of a lexical specificity intervention program that targeted phoneme discrimination in EBs at risk for reading disabilities. EBs who scored below the 25th percentile on the screening measures were selected and randomly assigned to one of two conditions: at-risk intervention or at-risk control. Of the 76 EBs in the at-risk group, 40 were randomly assigned to receive the intervention. A group of 51 typically developing EBs who did not meet the risk criteria were selected as typical controls. The pre- and post-tests include phoneme discrimination, phonological awareness, rapid automatized naming, fluency, and decoding. The at-risk intervention group showed improvement on the phoneme discrimination task after the intervention and outperformed the at-risk control group but not the typical control group. In addition, growth was observed during both the training and testing sessions of the intervention. The lexical specificity intervention could be a good resource to enhance a key precursor to literacy development for at-risk EBs.
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