The role of attention in elementary word reading for French immersion students

The Role of Attention in Elementary Word Reading for French Immersion Students

Posted by | Mar 6, 2024

Tutoring Can Help French Immersion Elementary Students with ADHD Who Struggle with Word Reading

In the realm of education, the connections between attention, early literacy, and language skills have been the subject of extensive research. When supporting students in French immersion programs, it’s important to understand the effects of attention on word reading to help them learn effectively. In this post, we’ll explore the relationship between attention, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and elementary word reading in the context of French immersion education. We’ll also delve into the role of reading tutors in supporting students with attention deficits, emphasizing the importance of targeted interventions to enhance both reading and behavioural engagement.

The Correlation Between ADHD and Early Literacy

Research consistently shows a link between ADHD, the acquisition of early literacy and language skills, and overall academic achievement. Various studies highlight factors of inattention and hyperactivity as significant contributors to reading achievement, with inattention often emerging as the stronger predictor (Spira & Fischel, 2005). Inattentive behavior is identified as a developmental risk factor for poor academic outcomes, making it essential to address attention-related challenges early in a student's academic career.

Negative Impact of ADHD Symptoms on Reading Performance

ADHD symptoms, particularly inattention, can have a disruptive effect on reading performance. While subjects like math and spelling involve checking an individual's work, many reading tasks can be performed more automatically. People with ADHD, however, may detect mistakes more frequently in tasks like reading that require constant attention, leading to greater impairment in reading measures (Fergusson & Horwood, 1992). Up to 50% of children with ADHD struggle with learning to read, reading with fluency, and comprehending written material, emphasizing the need for targeted interventions.

Attention and the Acquisition of Early Literacy Skills

Attention is crucial for acquiring early literacy skills such as phonemic awareness (the ability to recognize, identify, and manipulate individual sounds in spoken words) and naming speed (the ability to name a series of familiar stimuli quickly and accurately, such as letters, numbers, colors, or objects). Children with attentional difficulties may lack a solid foundation in these emergent literacy skills, affecting their reading proficiency in later grades (Martinussen et al., 2014). In French immersion programs, the relationship between attention, word reading, and bilingualism remains largely unexplored. While the negative effect of ADHD on reading is known, it is unclear whether bilingualism exacerbates deficits or compensates for attentional challenges (Bialystok, 2010; Sorge et al., 2017).

The Critical Role of Attention in Word Reading Development

Dual-route models of reading identify two separate mechanisms: The lexical route, which allows words to be recognized in their holistic form, and the sublexical route, which converts the parts of a word or a nonword into their corresponding speech sounds. Early readers often use the attention-demanding sublexical route to decode unfamiliar words, making attention difficulties a potential hindrance in this critical step of reading development (O'Neill et al., 2016). A recent study examining the reading skills of emergent bilingual children in French immersion, particularly those with ADHD, highlighted the significant effect of attention on word reading among elementary students. The findings underscore the need for additional measures to ensure that students with ADHD in French immersion programs do not lag their monolingual peers in literacy.

Regardless of the language being learned, attention plays a critical role in information processing, and its adequate functioning is essential for the development of reading skills. Individuals with attention deficits often face challenges with reading comprehension, underscoring the need for specific interventions and support in reading.

Transferability of Reading Skills Across Languages

It is essential to recognize that the structure and sound-system (phonological component) of different languages are essentially the same. Therefore, difficulties in word reading exist regardless of the language being taught. The basic skills and strategies used to overcome reading difficulties are transferable from one language to another; therefore, assumptions about students struggling more in a French immersion program than an English-only program should be reconsidered.

Using Reading Tutors for Effective Intervention

Given the strong connections between behaviour, self-regulation, and reading performance, many students with ADHD require support in both reading and behavioural engagement. Evoke Learning reading tutors provide a range of tactics to help their students improve their reading skills, including:

  • Providing personalized attention and support tailored to each student's needs,
  • Identifying areas of weakness and targeting instruction to address those areas,
  • Recommending appropriate reading materials to match each student's interests and reading level,
  • Setting achievable reading goals and tracking progress toward those goals,
  • Providing feedback and encouragement to build students’ confidence and motivation,
  • Using a variety of teaching methods and strategies to engage students in reading and improve their comprehension, and
  • Teaching vocabulary and other reading skills to support students’ overall reading development.

Understanding the intricate relationship between attention, ADHD, and word reading is crucial for educators, parents, and policymakers in the context of French immersion programs. Recognizing the impact of attention on early literacy skills and the potential challenges faced by students with ADHD is the first step toward implementing effective interventions. By acknowledging the role of reading tutors and targeted instructional approaches, we can ensure that all students, regardless of their attentional abilities, can develop strong word reading skills in their first and second languages. Give us a call to learn more about how Evoke can help.


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