Si Chen and colleagues examined the efficacy of a picture book reading intervention on Uyghur children’s first language (Uyghur) and second language (Mandarin Chinese) learning. This study, supported by the Ministry of Education of China, was the first randomized controlled language education intervention conducted in Xinjiang kindergartens.
This study published in Early Childhood Research Quarterly followed Uyghur children from 31 classes in 12 kindergartens in two cities of Xinjiang in one year. Among the 265 participating Uyghur children aged 4 to 5 years old, 134 of them participated in the experimental group receiving the Xinjian Project intervention, while 131 of them were allocated to the control group.
The intervention design was based on successful strategies learnt from previous book-reading interventions, including using picture books to provide high-quality second language input in reading and discussion, as well as providing a curriculum of vocabulary instruction and teacher training. Chinese-Uyghur bilingual picture books were used in order to support both first and second language vocabulary acquisition. The receptive and expressive vocabulary of Chinese and Uyghur were both assessed every six months. The evaluation showed:
- There was a faster growth rate among children in the treatment group in Chinese receptive vocabulary (E.S. = +0.68) and Uyghur expressive vocabulary (E.S.= +0.38).
- However, there were no significant differences between the treatment and control groups in the growth rate of Chinese expressive vocabulary and Uyghur receptive vocabulary.
The authors explained the insignificant growth rate in Chinese expressive vocabulary in terms of developmental age and insufficient intervention time. Nonetheless, they highlighted the potential of a well-designed picture book-reading programme to benefit the development of both home and school languages of minority children at the same time.
Source: Chen, S., Lawrence, J. F., Zhou, J., Min, L., & Snow, C. E. (2018). The efficacy of a school-based book-reading intervention on vocabulary development of young Uyghur children: A randomized controlled trial. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 44, 206–219.