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The Role of Morphological Awareness in English and French Reading Comprehension: A Longitudinal Investigation with Bayesian SEM

Meng-Hsun Lee, Juwairia Sohail, Kathleen Hipfner-Boucher, Becky Xi Chen
OISE/University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada


Morphological awareness, defined as the ability to identify and manipulate the smallest units of meaning in words (Kuo & Anderson, 2006), has been shown to play a critical role in reading comprehension (Kieffer & Lesaux, 2012). Despite increased focus on bilingual learners, limited research exists on the development of morphological awareness in children acquiring French as a second language. This longitudinal study examined the role of morphological awareness in reading comprehension among 115 English-French bilingual children enrolled in Canadian French immersion programs. This investigation involved assessing predictors such as morphological awareness, word reading, and vocabulary in Grade 2. Reading comprehension as the outcome variable was assessed in Grade 3. The within-language and cross-language models were examined in both English and French. Considering the small sample size, Bayesian structural equation modeling (SEM) was utilized for data analysis, with the implementation of weakly informative priors to prevent excessive assumptions. Nonverbal reasoning and parental education were initially included as two control variables but were later removed due to their negligible impact on the results. The within-language findings showed that Grade 2 French morphological awareness predicted French reading comprehension in both Grade 2 (β = 0.42, p < .01) and Grade 3 (β = 0.36, p < .05), while Grade 2 English morphological awareness contributed to English reading comprehension only in Grade 3 (β = 0.33, p < .001). Furthermore, the cross-language findings indicated a language transfer effect from Grade 2 French morphological awareness to Grade 3 English reading comprehension (β = 0.73, p < .01). However, Grade 2 English morphological awareness did not contribute to the gains in Grade 3 French reading comprehension. Our research illuminates the nuanced interplay between morphological awareness and reading comprehension in bilingual contexts, offering pedagogical implications for designing effective instruction for emerging English-French learners.


Morphological awareness, Reading comprehension, English-French bilinguals, Bayesian SEM

International Joint Conference of APLX, ETRA40, and TESPA 2023