Almost 18 per cent of Canadians speak both English and French fluently, while one in four Canadians’ first language is neither French nor English. As Canada Research Chair in Literacy Development of Bilingual and Multilingual Children, Dr. Xi Chen is studying how speaking one or more languages affects literacy.
Chen and her research team are identifying the factors that contribute to first- and second-language reading comprehension in the later elementary school years. They are advancing a new theory of cross-language transfer, in which the development of linguistic and cognitive skills in one language enables reading skills in another. Chen and her team are also examining oral language and reading comprehension in two vulnerable groups: minority-language children and children at risk for reading comprehension failure. Ultimately, their aim is to establish evidence to inform policy and practice and to advance equity in education.