The contributions of oral language to English reading outcomes among young bilingual students in the United States

Becky H. Huang, Lisa M. Bedore, Luping Niu, Yangting Wang, Nicole Y.Y. Wicha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Aims and objectives/purpose/research questions: The current study examined the language-reading relationship for bilingual students in two grade levels (grades 1 and 3) and for two reading outcomes (decoding and comprehension) to understand the contribution of oral language in English reading. The study also explored the potential mediating role of oral language between language use, reading frequency, and reading outcomes. Design/methodology/approach: The study included 60 bilingual students from bilingual households that speak a language other than, or in addition to, English. All participants completed a battery of language and reading assessments and a background survey. Data and analysis: Three separate confirmatory factor analyses were conducted to derive an Oral Language factor (from oral language assessments), a Language Use factor, and a Reading Frequency factor (from survey items). A multivariate regression was conducted to investigate whether the language-reading relationship differed by grade and reading outcome. A multivariate mediation analysis was also conducted to examine whether the Oral Language factor mediates the effect of Language Use and Reading Frequency on reading outcomes. Findings/conclusions: Oral language proficiency significantly predicted both decoding and comprehension for both grades. Oral language also mediated the relationship between reading frequency and reading outcomes. Originality: This study investigates the contributions of oral language in young bilingual students’ English reading outcomes, which is an under-explored topic. Significance/implications: The results demonstrated the importance of oral language proficiency in bilingual students’ reading outcomes. Oral language plays a robust role in not only reading comprehension but also decoding. The study also clarified that the effects of reading frequency on reading outcomes are indirect and mediated via oral language. Improving bilingual students’ oral language proficiency coupled with promoting their reading frequency can help promote their reading outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)40-57
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Bilingualism
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • Simultaneous bilinguals
  • emergent bilingual/English learners
  • language use
  • oral language
  • reading development
  • reading frequency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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