Professor Ludovica Serratrice is Director of the Centre for Literacy and Multilingualism at the University of Reading.
Doctor Alessandra Valentini is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences.
Their project, What’s in a Story, explores the development, over the course of 12 months, of language and reading abilities in children who have English as an additional language (EAL).
Ludovica and Alessandra saw the children on six different occasions and assessed their development using tasks testing memory, attention, non-verbal cognitive skills, vocabulary, grammar, inference-making and comprehension.
Preliminary results show that bilingual children behave similarly to monolingual children when it comes to making inferences, that is, reaching a conclusion based on reasoning and on the information they get from the text. Both bilingual and monolingual children are better at connecting two parts of a story than they are at adding their own knowledge of the world to the story to make sense of it.
Also, Ludovica and Alessandra identified the factors that best predict the children’s ability to make inferences and to understand a text. These are vocabulary breadth – i. e. how well a child knows the words and the relationship between them – and knowledge of grammatical rules.
The same results were confirmed over time: a good knowledge of grammar and vocabulary had a positive effect on the children’s comprehension both at the beginning and at the end of the testing period.
Finally, the amount of English input plays a crucial role in the children’s development of vocabulary and grammar, which in turn determines their ability to make sense of a story.
If you are interested in knowing more about this project, click here to watch the video interview with Professor Serratrice and Doctor Valentini.