Persici, V., Majorano, M., Bastianello, T., & Hoff, E. (2022). Vocabulary and reading speed in the majority language are affected by maternal language proficiency and language exposure at home: a study of language minority bilingual children in Italy. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 25(10), 3729-3744. https://doi.org/10.1080/13670050.2022.2076552
Environmental sources of variance in the Italian vocabulary and reading skills of bilingual primary school children from immigrant families (or language minority bilingual children (LMBC)) in Italy were investigated, and the LMBC’s skill levels were compared to those of their monolingual classmates. A total of 140 children from the first, third, and fifth grades were administered standardized tests of receptive vocabulary, word reading, and nonword reading skills. LMBC’s exposure to Italian at home and their mothers’ Italian proficiency were reported by mothers. Immigrant mothers’ Italian proficiency was a significant predictor of vocabulary and word reading speed but not of word accuracy or nonword reading. High levels of Italian exposure at home in combination with low levels of maternal Italian proficiency was a negative predictor of vocabulary; high exposure to Italian at home was positively associated with word reading speed and negatively associated with nonword reading speed. LMBC had lower vocabulary scores but did not differ from monolingual children in measures of reading skill. The findings underscore the importance of the quality of language exposure for language development and replicate findings that bilingual children show decoding skills on a par with monolingual children despite smaller vocabularies.