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Archived Content from Conference Held in October 2008 

Fred Genesee
Professor, Department of Psychology
McGill University

Learning to Read in a Second Language

Reading is fundamental to successful education. Reading competence is both an end in itself and a means to an end. A primary role of schools is to teach students how to read and, at the same time, learning to read serves academic development as students must read academic material in order to develop knowledge and competence in academic domains. In recent years, there has been substantial in research on reading acquisition in monolinguals and, as a result, our understanding of reading acquisition has advanced considerably. This has also brought with it implications for teaching reading. There have also been considerable advances in research on learning to read in a second language. This research has taken on important practical implications because of the growing number of students in American schools who are not native speakers of English.

This presentation will summarize research findings over the last 25 years on second language reading acquisition in both minority language students acquiring reading competence in English as a second language and English-speaking immersion students acquiring reading competence in French as a second language. In brief, the evidence indicates that: (a) reading acquisition is a complex process that changes over grades; (b) the acquisition of competence in reading is cumulative so that early acquired skills are important for the acquisition of later skills; (c) learning to read in a second language is similar to learning to read in a first language in some important ways; (d) there are important differences in first and second language reading acquisition; and (e) predictors of reading success in a first language are fundamentally the same as predictors of success at reading in a second language. The implications of these findings for assessment, instruction, and remediation of students with reading difficulties will be discussed.

Plenary PowerPoint (PDF)

Dr. Fred Genesee is Professor in the Psychology Department at McGill University, Montreal. He has conducted extensive research on alternative forms of bilingual education for majority and minority language students. His current research interests include language acquisition in pre-school bilingual children, cross-language adopted children, and the language and academic development of students at-risk in bilingual programs. He is the author of numerous professional and scientific research reports and books, including Beyond Bilingualism: Multilingualism and Multilingual Education (1998), Dual Language Instruction: A Handbook for Enriched Education (2000), Trends in Bilingual Acquisition (2000), and Dual Language Development and Disorders (2004).

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