Longitudinal study on Chinese children's language and literacy acquisition

Welcome to our website detailing our longitudinal research on Chinese children's literacy skills. Thus far, we have been following one group of Chinese children in Beijing for eleven years and another group in Hong Kong for ten years. Our main interest is in how language and literacy skills are associated in Chinese children. This research originally began as a study of 9-16 month-old Chinese children in both places. The purpose was to come up with a normed test of vocabulary items that Chinese children of that age are likely to know. With funding from the Research Grants Council, we have been able to follow these children for over a decade, testing each participating individual child once a year, to look at language skills, word reading and writing, and, ultimately, reading comprehension and writing composition. The results of this study have not only helped teachers and parents to have a clearer understanding of Chinese children's language and literacy development, but have also helped educators to predict reading difficulties in young children, facilitating early intervention for such at-risk children.

More specifically, some of the things we have gained from this study include standardized normed checklists for use in gauging children's early language development, a comparison of literacy development in Hong Kong and Beijing, and a sense of both first (Chinese) and second (English) language literacy learning in Chinese children. We have also explored the roles of phonological awareness (including syllable, onset, and lexical tone awareness, as well as Pinyin sensitivity in Beijing) and morphological awareness (including both lexical compounding and awareness of homophones/homonyms) in promoting both literacy skills (such as word reading, word writing, and reading comprehension) and vocabulary knowledge in these children over time. These ideas are summarized further in our overview of published research arising from this study. The study is ongoing, and our more recent (unpublished) work is focused on understanding how reading comprehension and writing composition develop in children ages 8 and older, in both Chinese and English.

We are extraordinarily grateful to all the families in both Hong Kong and Beijing who have participated and continue to participate in this study. Without their continuous participation, this work simply would not have been possible. Thank you so much!!! We are also very grateful to the Research Grants Council for its continuous funding of this comprehensive, extraordinary study.

Our current research team members:

Professor Catherine McBride-Chang, The Chinese University of Hong Kong

Professor Shu Hua, Beijing Normal University

Professor Anita Wong, University of Hong Kong

Professor Twila Tardif, University of Michigan

Ms. Chan Hiu Chung & Mr. Chan Shing Fong (Research assistant)