Bilingualism and Biliteracy in Preschoolers: A Longitudinal Home-School Transition Study

Project Number
OER 26/15 VV

Project Duration
January 2016 - June 2019


This baseline longitudinal study qualitatively documents how bilingualism and biliteracy develop in preschoolers from diverse language groups and social classes from K2 to P1. By the term "language groups" we are referring to 3 main groups of languages: Chinese-English (including dialects), Malay-English and Tamil-English. We define biliteracy as listening, speaking, reading and writing in and around two or more languages (Hornberger, 2003). Thus, bilingualism is subsumed under the broader term, biliteracy, which could include more than 2 languages and/or multiple registers of the same language (reasons for not using the term "multiliteracies" is explained in the main proposal). We situate biliteracy within two interlinked cultural spaces in the linguistic ecology of the child: Home Literacy Environment (HLE) and Interactional Patterns in Preschool (IPP), leading to Dual Language Outcomes (DLO). Using a case-based approach, we will follow 18 preschoolers (6 Chinese speaking, 6 Malay speaking and 6 Tamil speaking) from Kindengarten Year 2 to Primary 1. We plan to work with preschoolers who are already participants in the Singapore Kindergarten Impact Project (SKIP). A profile of each group’s HLE will be drawn based on observations of biliteracy practices at home, interactional patterns of the child with parents/siblings, and resources available for language learning. HLE will also include artefacts that the child produces during literacy activities to document orthographic development in English and Mother Tongue. IPP will consist of observations of the preschoolers’ interaction with peers at play and with the preschool teacher. We will observe preschool teachers while teaching English and Mother Tongue. Finally, the DLO of each child will consist of a data bank of expressive languages recorded at home and school in a timed sequence over 1 year and artefacts produced at home and school. This data bank will be coded for the development of vocabulary, emerging grammatical and discourse features, patterns of translanguaging and orthographic development in English and Mother Tongue for each of the 18 children. Teacher and parent talk will be coded for quantity (amount of talk) and quality (richness of talk). Data generated by this project will showcase the linguistic resources that disadvantaged bilingual children bring to Primary 1, as part of the sample will be selected from low socioeconomic status families. The data will also provide evidence for links between the linguistic ecology of children and their biliteracy development. Finally, the project will generate ideas for a future intervention based on what parents could do at home to enhance school readiness in terms of language acquisition.

Funding Source

Related Links
SingTeach Issue 58 (2016): Cultivating Effective Reading in Bilingual Children

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