Effects of language dominance on home reading practices of bilingual families

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Description: Many children grow up in bilingual families, but little is known about how these families use their two languages in their home reading practices. We gathered questionnaire data about home reading activities in French-English bilingual families with 5-year-old children (N = 66). Families lived in Montréal, a bilingual community where both languages are spoken in everyday life and have similar sociolinguistic status. We compared home reading environment, parent reading practices, and child learning and interest in books across the families’ dominant and non-dominant languages. Families gave more weight to reading practices in the family’s dominant language: they owned more books, started reading to the child earlier, read more often, and spent more time reading in the dominant than in the non-dominant language. Dominance also affected parent reading behaviors: parents reported more often translating words and switching from their non-dominant to their dominant language. Parents reported that children enjoyed being read to and readily learned new words in both languages, but ratings were higher for the dominant language. Effects of dominance were strongest in families with more unbalanced language dominance. Taken together, these results suggest that even in bilingual communities, families tend to give more home reading support to the dominant than the non-dominant language. Family home reading practices may exacerbate uneven development across children’s two languages.

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