Development of Literacy in Spanish Speakers (DeLSS)

The goal of the Development of Literacy in Spanish Speakers (DeLSS) research project was the development of new knowledge relevant to the critical factors that influence the development of English-language literacy (reading and writing) competencies among children whose first language is Spanish. This initiative was jointly organized and funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and the Institute of Education Sciences of the Department of Education.

The research was aimed at addressing three overarching questions:

  • How do children whose first language is Spanish learn to read and write in English?
  • Why do some Spanish-speaking children have difficulties acquiring English-language reading and writing skills?
  • For children whose first language is Spanish, what instructional approaches and strategies are most beneficial, at which stages of reading and writing development, and under what conditions? Also, what teacher knowledge, teaching skills, and instructional strategies are required to ensure optimal outcomes?

The DeLSS projects were designed to provide data and solid empirical evidence to inform teaching approaches that can most effectively enable U.S. language minority children to develop English literacy. 

Center for Applied Linguistics Research: Acquiring Literacy in English

Under Principle Investigator, Dr. Diane August, this five-year program project contained an administrative core, a data/statistical analysis core, and three projects.

  • Project one studied 300 four-year-old Spanish-English bilingual children and 100 four-year-old monolingual Spanish-speaking children, with more intensive study of subsamples of each group. The project developed and piloted measures and studied longitudinally the relationship between growth in language skills in the two languages, to gain predictive and descriptive information about the relationship between the home and school environments, and to understand differences between the literacy process for monolingual and bilingual children. 
  • Project two explored the role of the mother tongue in the development of English reading competencies in Spanish-speaking children by studying fourth and fifth grade students' performance in Spanish reading, English reading, and metalinguistic awareness of phonology and morphology. This project also studied teacher implementation and develop materials for classroom use. 
  • Project three was a longitudinal investigation of spelling in Spanish-English bilingual children from grades 2 to 5 that seeks to identify factors that explain high levels of transfer from Spanish spelling to English spelling, and to determine the relationships between English spelling skills and English reading ability in bilingual children. In addition to the Center for Applied Linguistics, participating institutions were Harvard University and the Johns Hopkins University.

Learn more about the Acquiring Literacy in English (ALE) project

The Vocabulary Instruction and Assessment for Spanish Speakers (VIAS)

This 5-year program of research built on the previous program project grant awarded to the Center of Applied Linguistics to study Acquiring Literacy in English (ALE) (2000-2006), which was part of the Development of Literacy in Spanish Speakers (DeLSS) initiative jointly organized and funded by NICHD and IES.

Learn more about VIAS.