Object structure

Emergent Literacy in Bilingual Children


Dębski, Robert ; Rabiej, Agnieszka


Instytut Języka Polskiego Polskiej Akademii Nauk

Place of publishing:


Date issued/created:


Subject and Keywords:

biliteracy ; emergent literacy ; bilingualism ; community languages


The objective of the article is to (1) explain the role of emergent literacy in the community language in developing literacy in the additional language and biliteracy, and (2) demonstrate the need to develop resources supporting emergent reading skills in community languages in Australia. A critical review of literature in the field of emergent literacy and bilingual language development shows that the interaction between languages in the development of biliteracy is complex, but overall it demonstrates a positive impact of emergent literacy in the community language on the development of literacy skills in the additional language in later years. The article presents emergent literacy example materials, targeting bilingual children in Australia with Polish backgrounds, and explains the design considerations underpinning their development. A particular emphasis is on explaining how the materials have been designed to (1) stress the presence of different cultures and languages in the children’s environment (2) teach how to transfer reading skills and behaviours from Polish into English, and (3) emphasise those specific grapheme-phoneme relations in Polish which present difficulties for children acquiring Polish and English. The authors conclude that opportunities for transfer of early reading skills and behaviours from a community language to an additional language can be enhanced by designing reading materials for positive transfer, because learners who are acquiring an additional language use the strategies which they find most useful in their first language. It may be equally important to develop reading materials and instruction in the mainstream language in a way that community-language-speaking children are able to draw upon the skills which they bring with them into the reading learning process at school from home.


Bialystok, E., R. Barac, A. Blaye, and D. Poulin-Dubois. 2010. “Word mapping and executive functioning in young monolingual and bilingual children”. Journal of Cognition and Development (11) 4: 485–508.
Bradley, L., and P. Bryant. 1983. “Categorizing sounds and learning to read: A causal connection”. Nature 301: 419–421.
Brito, N., and R. Barr. 2012. “Influence of bilingualism on memory generalization during infancy”. Deve-lopmental Science (15) 6: 812– 816.
Cárdenas-Hagan, E., C.D. Carlson, and S.D. Pollard-Durodola. 2007. “The cross-linguistic transfer of early literacy skills: The role of initial L1 and L2 skills and language of instruction”. Language Speech and Hearing Services in Schools 38: 249–259. DOI: 10.1044/0161-1461(2007/026).
Cieszyńska, J. 2005. Nauka czytania krok po kroku. Jak przeciwdziałać dysleksji [Teaching to Read – Step by Step. How to Prevent Dyslexia]. Kraków: Wydawnictwo Naukowe Akademii Pedagogicznej.
Cieszyńska, J. 2012a. Samogłoski [Vowels]. Kraków: Wydawnictwo Edukacyjne.
Cieszyńska, J. 2012b. Wyrażenia dźwiękonaśladowcze [Onomatopoeic Expressions]. Kraków: Wydawnictwo Edukacyjne.
Clyne, M. 1991. Community Languages: The Australian Experience. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Clyne, M. 2005. Australia’s Language Potential. Sydney: University of New South Wales Press.
Coady, J. 1979. “A psycholinguistic model of the ESL reader”. In Reading in a Second Language, eds. M. Ronald and B. Bruce. Rowley: Newbury House Publishers, 5–12.
Costa, H.C., H. Perdry, C. Soria, S. Pulgar, F. Cusin, and G. Dellatolas. 2013. “Emergent literacy skills, behavior problems and familial antecedents of reading difficulties: A follow-up study of reading achieve-ment from kindergarten to fifth grade”. Research in Developmental Disabilities, (34) 3: 1018–1034. DOI: 10.1016/j.ridd.2012.11.029.
Cummins, J. 2017. “Teaching for transfer in multilingual school contexts”. In Bilingual and Multilingual Education. Encyclopedia of Language and Education(3rd ed.), eds. O. Garcia, A. Lin and S. May. Cham: Springer. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-02258-1_8.
Debski, R. 2018. “Parental understandings of bilingualism in the Polish community in Australia”. Ba-bel (53) 1: 22–29.
Dębski, R., A. Rabiej, and M. Szelc-Mays. 2016. Program wczesnej nauki czytania wraz z przewodnikiem dla rodziców i nauczycieli dzieci dwujęzycznych[Early Reading Program and Handbook for Parents and Teachers of Bilingual Children]. Kraków: Avalon.
Giménez, A., A. Ortiz, M. López-Zamora, A. Sánchez, and J.L. Luque. 2017. “Parents’ reading history as an indicator of risk for reading difficulties”. Annales of Dyslexia (67) 3: 259–280.
Goswami, U., and P.E. Bryant. 1990. Phonological Skills and Learning to Read. Hove: Psychology Press.
Hiebert, E.H. 1988. “The role of literacy experiences in early childhood programs”. The Elementary School
Journal (89) 2: 161–171.





Start page:


End page:


Resource type:


Detailed Resource Type:




Resource Identifier:

click here to follow the link



Language of abstract:



Rights Reserved - Free Access

Terms of use:

Copyright-protected material. May be used within the limits of statutory user freedoms





Citation style: