Minerva Lecture Series
There has been growing attention in recent years on how second language, or L2, students learn to read. This research has been motivated to a large extent by global immigration trends, the desire to meet the educational needs of linguistic minority children, the economic needs of receiving countries and, increasingly, by an interest in fostering bilingualism.
Much of the research on reading development in second language students has been guided by general questions such as: What do we know about first language (L1) research on reading development and teaching that can help us understand reading development in L2 students? Is fluency essential for reading in a second language? How do reading skills in the native language relate to reading skills in the second language? Do second language readers get "confused" when they learn to read in a language that is very different from their native language? How do L2 readers’ different cultural knowledge—such as their background knowledge of the texts they read—influence their reading abilities? Do parent education levels influence reading ability in the second language? Is it possible to identify reading disabilities in L2 learners even when they are not fluent in their second language?
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What’s so special about learning to read in a second language? (PDF, 1 MB)
Based on research conducted in my lab, I will examine these fundamental questions and discuss the lessons that parents, educators, and decision-makers can draw to help second language learners develop strong reading skills and thereby make the most of their educational experiences.
Dr. Esther Geva is a Professor and the Chair of the Department of Human Development and Applied Psychology at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto. The primary focus of Dr. Geva’s research is the development of language and literacy skills in children and adults from various linguistic backgrounds. She teaches graduate courses and conducts research on reading in a second language, assessment and intervention in multicultural/bilingual contexts, and cross-cultural perspectives on children’s psychological problems. Having studied in Israel, the US, and Canada, Dr. Geva’s background reflects her research interests and includes personal experiences in a variety of cultural and linguistic settings.
Dr. Geva has published numerous chapters and articles on the second language literacy skills of normally developing and reading disabled bilingual and ESL learners. She has presented her work internationally and served on numerous advisory, policy, and review committees in the US and Canada concerned with research on literacy development in minority children. Most recently she served as a member of the National Literacy Panel (NLP) in the U.S. to conduct a comprehensive, evidence-based review of the research literature on the development of literacy among language minority children and youth. In addition to her work at OISE/UT, Dr. Geva is a member of the Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network (CLLRNet).