Volume 89, Issue 1 p. 310-331
Empirical Article

Age of Bilingual Exposure Is Related to the Contribution of Phonological and Semantic Knowledge to Successful Reading Development

Kaja K. Jasińska

Kaja K. Jasińska

Haskins Laboratories

University of Delaware

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Laura-Ann Petitto

Corresponding Author

Laura-Ann Petitto

Gallaudet University

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Laura-Ann Petitto, Science of Learning Center: Visual Language and Visual Learning, VL2, at Gallaudet University, 800 Florida Ave NE, Washington, DC 20002. Electronic mail may be sent to [email protected].Search for more papers by this author
First published: 07 February 2017
Citations: 22
[Article corrected on March 10, 2017 after first online publication on February 7, 2017: An additional affiliation, ‘University of Delaware’ was added for Kaja K. Jasińska]
We extend thanks to the teachers, children, and their families who helped us with this research. Laura-Ann Petitto thanks the National Institutes of Health (R01HD045822-01 and R21HD050558-01) for funding this research. Laura-Ann Petitto also extends thanks to the National Science Foundation, Science of Learning Center Grant, Visual Language and Visual Learning, VL2 (NSF Grant SBE-0541953) and to members of her Brain and Language fNIRS Neuroimaging Laboratory at Gallaudet University. For additional information see http://www.gallaudet.edu/petitto.html.


Bilingual children's reading as a function of age of first bilingual language exposure (AoE) was examined. Bilingual (varied AoE) and monolingual children (N = 421) were compared in their English language and reading abilities (6–10 years) using phonological awareness, semantic knowledge, and reading tasks. Structural equation modeling was applied to determine how bilingual AoE predicts reading outcomes. Early exposed bilinguals outperformed monolinguals on phonological awareness and word reading. Phonology and semantic (vocabulary) knowledge differentially predicted reading depending on the bilingual experience and AoE. Understanding how bilingual experiences impact phonological awareness and semantic knowledge, and in turn, impact reading outcomes is relevant for our understanding of what language and reading skills are best to focus on, and when, to promote optimal reading success.