Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Educational Psychology


Linnea C. Ehri

Committee Members

Jay Verkuilen

Emilia C. Lopez

Helen L. Johnson

Miriam Eisenstein Ebsworth

Subject Categories

Educational Psychology


Developing literacy and language proficiency in English is essential to thrive in school and in the workforce in American society. Research on cross-linguistic influences on text-level skills is scant, especially studies investigating reading comprehension among language-minority adults. The present study investigated the effects of cross-linguistic input and second language proficiency on second language reading comprehension among Spanish-speaking adults enrolled in English as a Second Language (ESL) classes at a community college in New York City. The main research question was whether language-minority adults would comprehend printed text better if they read it in Spanish (L1) followed by English (L2) than if they read the text twice only in English. An experimental study using a 2 (lower L2 proficiency vs. higher L2 proficiency) x 2 (think-aloud vs. no think-aloud) x 2 (Spanish/English vs. English/English) crossed factorial design was conducted. Eighty students were randomly assigned to the Spanish/English or English/English reading conditions within each L2 proficiency level and think-aloud conditions. Reading comprehension was assessed via a verbal recall task, eight open-ended questions, and a 43-item cloze task. The results revealed that students with lower L2 proficiency benefitted substantially from reading the text in both languages as evident by their performance on the recall and Q&A reading comprehension tasks. In contrast, L1 input did not provide an added advantage over reading the text twice in English for students with higher L2 proficiency. A reactive effect to the think-aloud procedure was found for students with lower L2 proficiency on the Q&A and cloze tasks. On the Q&A task, among those who completed the think-aloud procedure, students who read the text in both languages outperformed students who read the text only in English. On the cloze task, students who did not perform the think-aloud procedure outperformed students who did the think-aloud. In addition, it was found that the reading comprehension assessment methods had a differential effect on students' ability to demonstrate the degree to which they comprehended the text. Results showed that performance was lowest on the recall task across all groups. Other findings and implications are discussed.