Bilingualism and Development of Literacy in Children: A Systematic ReviewHTML198
Background. The importance of biliteracy in bilingual children’s development has been widely investigated and discussed for the last several decades, suggesting beneficial effects of writing and reading in two languages for bilingual children as well as for adult second language learners.
Objective. To analyze research on the link between bilingualism and literacy development in two or more languages and the factors that may influence a successful or problematic biliteracy acquisition. RQ (1): What is the relationship between bilingualism and literacy of bilingual children? RQ (2): What strategies are used to develop biliteracy?
Design. The review analyzes 50 studies of literacy development in bilingual children. The selected articles have been separated based on their methodology: 25 articles gave a critical analysis of more than 1,100 studies on the topic, strengthening the theoretical basis of existing research, and 25 other articles were empirical research articles demonstrating practical evidence for the former.
Results. Our analysis revealed that literacy in bilinguals, or biliteracy, can be seen as a necessary condition for fluent development of bilingualism, though it is not a necessary condition (which is explained by the difference between structures of specific languages and writing systems, instruction in literacy, and cognitive baggage invoked by the task used to measure the skill) (Bialystok, 2002). Research suggests that bilingualism impacts children's ultimate acquisition of literacy via the beneficial effects of bilingualism overall: advanced biliteracy boosts the development of phonological and phonemic awareness and metacognitive abilities. Thus, biliteracy can be considered as an advantage in terms of maintaining bilingual acquisition in general and developing writing skills in particular.
Conclusion. There is a lack of studies on the development of writing skills in different educational contexts, across countries and cultures, which must be addressed and complemented by new empirical research. Research will enable policymakers to improve educational programs in accordance with the needs of bilingual children, who are the majority in the current global population.
Keywords: Bilingualism/ multilingualism/ biliteracy/ writing skills/ multilingual education/ systematic review