¿Read Conmigo?: The Effect of Code-switching Storybooks on Dual-Language Learners’ Retention of New Vocabulary

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Taylor & Francis


Research Findings: Storybooks provide opportunities for children to encounter new words in context and build vocabulary. Storybooks intended for dual-language learners (DLLs) can come in two types – immersive monolingual second language (L2) books, or an emerging style of “code–switching” books written predominantly in a child’s dominant language (L1), but highlighting target vocabulary in L2. In this study we investigated how book type affects vocabulary retention. Both English (ELL) and Spanish (SLL) learning 2– to 5–year–olds heard researcher–designed stories that introduced novel animal names in L2 – one formatted monolingually in L2, and one code-switching from L1 to L2. Children’s new word retention was then tested with simple picture identification tasks. The findings demonstrated that both SLL and ELL participants had comparable novel word retention after each book type, but there was an interaction of age and storybook type, such that older children, regardless of primary language or typical L2 exposure were more likely to experience a novel word retention boost from the code–switching book. Practice or Policy: These findings suggest that matching the best book type to an individual learner depends on understanding the learner’s developmental stages in both L1 and L2.