Faculty Proceedings, Presentations, Speeches and Lectures


The Role of Home Language in Relation to Executive Function and Oral Reading Fluency in Young Latino Children

Event Location / Date(s)

Miami, Florida, USA / 2019-10-17 - 2019-10-20

Document Type


Presentation Date


Conference Name / Publication Title

2019 NPLA (National Latinx Psychological Association) Conference


Young children who have a successful transition to school have better attention, working memory, and behavioral inhibition (Ponitz, et al., 2009). Children with mastery of these skills go on to have better academic outcomes, particularly in the acquisition of early literacy skills (McClelland et al., 2007). Emergent literacy skills (i.e. phonological awareness and alphabet knowledge) have been identified as early predictors of later academic success (Smith, Borkowski, & Whitman, 2008). Of these emergent literacy skills, oral reading fluency (ORF) has been shown to be a significant predictor of children’s reading proficiency (Fuchs, Fuchs, Hosp, & Jenkins, 2001). This is distinctively salient for young Latino children who have been shown to fall behind in their reading skills as early as kindergarten entry (Reardon & Galindo, 2009). Given the increase in Latino children entering kindergarten, some attention has focused on the impact of language and executive function (EF). Previous work on young bilingual Latino children has demonstrated superior EF skills as compared to monolingual children (Carlson & Meltzoff, 2008), although similar findings have not been consistently replicated. This highlights the importance of understanding additional factors that may impact Latino children’s outcomes. One such factor, is the impact of home language (HL). Previous work suggests that usage of a language other than English at home is negatively associated with literacy outcomes in English (Kennedy & Park, 1994). However, little research has explored variations in HL in a sample of young children, in relation to EF and ORF.

Study sample consisted of 537 children (Mage=5.87, SD=.81, 48.1% male;) entering grades K and 1st across community summer programs. One-minute, Curriculum-Based Measure probes (CBM; Fuchs et al., 2001) were used to assess children’s ORF. The Head, Toes, Knees, and Shoulders task (HTKS; Ponitz et al., 2008), a well-established brief ecologically valid assessment of children’s EF was also administered. The task is administered as a short game with up to four paired behavioral rules: “touch your head” and “touch your toes;” “touch your shoulders” and “touch your knees.” Children first respond naturally, and then are instructed to switch rules by responding the “opposite” way. There are 20 test items, where responses are scored on a three-point scale; 0 = incorrect, 1= self-correct, and 2= correct, with scores ranging from 0-40. Parents reported on the languages spoken at home and were grouped as English-only (n=117), Spanish-only (n=229), and both (n=191).
A hierarchical regression analysis revealed that there was a significant interaction effect between children’s EF and HL on children’s ORF (=-.39, t(533)=-3.52, p<.001, 95% CI [-.02,-.01], after controlling for child age and income. Specifically, children whose HL was English demonstrated greater EF skills, which was related to better ORF, as compared to children whose HL was Spanish (t=-2.27, b=-5.99, p>.02). There were no other statistically significant differences found.
These findings demonstrate the importance of considering the variation in HL in a sample of dual language speaking Latino children as it relates to EF and ORF. The implications of these findings for early intervention in literacy will be discussed.