People living in the United States who started school knowing only Spanish are more likely than those who started school knowing only English to struggle with reading as adults, according to a federal study released this week that explores why some adults in the United States are struggling readers. The study’s findings are featured in an article, “Why Do Millions of Americans Struggle with Reading and Writing?,” published this week in the Christian Science Monitor (Hat tip to This Week in Education).
The article says that the researchers moved into relatively new territory by interviewing adults whose first language is Spanish to get more insight into their English literacy. The interviewers were permitted to talk with the adults in Spanish. But they had to give answers in English.
One way that the study, released by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences, examined whether participants were slow or fluent readers was by finding out how many words they could read correctly per minute. That was the basis for a “basic reading skills” score. Participants who had started school speaking only English scored 100 words per minute on average, while those who started school speaking only Spanish scored 66 words per minute (on Page 19 of the study). Thus, those adults who had started school in English were less likely to be slow readers than those who started school in Spanish.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.