Mother tongue reading materials as a bridge to literacy

    Research output: Working paperDiscussion paper


    Children whose mother tongue is different from the language of instruction at school face significant challenges in developing literacy skills. One educational approach to address this favours immersion in the language of instruction, while another favours a transitional period of bilingual education. This paper evaluates the impact of an early primary school literacy intervention. In addition to multi-faceted literacy support, the programme included a component of transitional bilingual education for students whose mother tongue is not the usual language of instruction. Over two years, the intervention raised literacy scores in the language of instruction by +0.44 sd, and literacy in mother tongue for minority language speakers by +0.68 sd. Both native speakers and language learners saw equivalent gains in literacy in the language of instruction, despite language learners also seeing large gains in mother tongue literacy. Our findings suggests that a light-touch transitional bilingual component does not interfere with literacy acquisition in the language of instruction; however, neither is it likely to close gaps between native speakers and language learners.
    Original languageEnglish
    Place of PublicationSt Andrews
    PublisherUniversity of St Andrews
    Publication statusPublished - 29 Jun 2021

    Publication series

    NameSchool of Economics and Finance Discussion Paper
    PublisherUniversity of St Andrews
    ISSN (Print)0962-4031
    ISSN (Electronic)2055-303X


    • Primary education
    • Language of instruction
    • Literacy
    • Intervention


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