A Comparison of Reading Accuracy and Reading Comprehension in Bilingual Arabic/Farsi-speaking and Monolingual Farsi-speaking Elementary Students in the Fifth Grade
Background: Reading comprehension is one of the primary skills required of students in elementary schools. Various factors can influence this skill, including bilingualism. Owing to the variety of languages and dialects in Iran, a large number of students learn Farsi as a second language; consequently, they are faced with numerous challenges in acquiring high-level skills such as reading and writing. The present study was aimed at comparing reading comprehension and reading accuracy between bilingual Arabic and Farsi-speaking and monolingual Farsi-speaking fifth grade children in Ahvaz.
Methods: This cross-sectional, descriptive analytic study was carried out employing a random sample of 165 bilingual students (91 girls and 74 boys), and 159 monolingual students (79 girls and 80 boys). The students were evaluated in terms of reading accuracy and comprehension skills using some selected parts from a reading test developed by Shafei et al., in 2009. Finally, mean scores were compared between the two groups employing the independent samples t-test.
Results: Both reading comprehension and accuracy were significantly higher in monolinguals compared to bilingual Arabic/Farsi-speaking students (P=0.000). Gender stratified results showed higher levels of reading comprehension skills in both monolingual girls (P=0.000) and boys (P=0.03) in comparison to bilinguals. However, in the reading accuracy subtest, only monolingual girls had a significantly superior performance than the bilinguals (P=0.000).
Conclusion: Overall, our results showed lower levels of reading comprehension and accuracy skills in bilingual fifth grade students in comparison to their monolingual peers in the city of Ahvaz. It seems that even in the late elementary school years, bilingual children have not attained the same level as their monolingual peers. Due to the importance of reading skills in academic achievement and day-to-day life, we highly recommend the implementation of measures toward improving these skills among bilingual elementary school students.
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