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Lang Speech Hear Serv Sch. 2007 Jul;38(3):225-36.

Narrative and vocabulary development of bilingual children from kindergarten to first grade: developmental changes and associations among English and Spanish skills.

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Harvard Graduate School of Education, 14 Appian Way, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.



Research has identified English oral language proficiency as being critical for bilingual students' literacy development. This study examines developmental patterns and associations among oral vocabulary and narrative skills in a longitudinal sample of 24 Spanish/English bilingual children from low socioeconomic backgrounds so as to further our understanding of the development of oral proficiency.


English and Spanish data were gathered using standardized vocabulary tests and narrative elicitation tasks provided to kindergartners and first graders. Narratives were coded for length using two measures of productivity and for quality at two levels: story score and language score. Descriptive, correlation, multivariate, and regression analyses were conducted.


Significant gains from kindergarten to first grade were found for all English oral language measures. Despite showing improvements in English vocabulary, the majority of children continued to score below the monolingual mean in first grade. For English narrative productivity, total number of different words (TDW) proved to be a sensitive developmental measure in contrast to total number of words (TNW). In Spanish, significant gains were noted only for narrative story score. Kindergarten Spanish story scores predicted first-grade English narrative quality even when controlling for the effects of English vocabulary and English narrative productivity. First-grade Spanish narrative quality was best predicted by Spanish vocabulary.


The need for early assessment and monitoring of expressive vocabulary and oral narrative skills, and the potential contributions of Spanish story organization skills to English narrative performance in bilingual children from low socioeconomic families, are highlighted.

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