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  1. Section Editor(s): Nelson, Nickola Wolf PhD
  2. Editor-in-Chief
  3. Troia, Gary A. PhD
  4. Associate Editor

Article Content

Our perspective is that there is more than one healthy and normal path to learning language(s) in childhood and that dual language [and dialect] learning leads to differences that need to be both better understood and respected. - (Paradis, Genesee, & Crago, 2011, pp. 3-4)


This issue of Topics in Language Disorders (TLD) was conceptualized by issue editors, Dr. Julie A. Washington and Dr. Nicole Patton Terry, to address the topic of language and literacy skills of bidialectal and bilingual speakers. They invited articles that could lead not only to deeper understanding of the differences that characterize the language and literacy learning of children who are learning two languages or two dialects of a language but also to a greater respect for the strengths that might come from learning and using features of more than one language system in children's school-age years-whether two languages or two dialects of one language.


What is unique about this issue is that authors review the evidence that can help readers appreciate the opportunities and the challenges that children can experience when they are in the process of learning more than one language or dialect of a language, either simultaneously or sequentially. The issue begins with the article by Lee-James and Washington (2018) on the values of a strengths-based perspective in seeking to understand the linguistic features that characterize language development and disorders among bilingual and bidialectal children, as well as how executive function and code-switching may help build strengths and can reflect strengths. With this article, the authors also discuss commonalities between the challenges and opportunities experienced by both groups, and even some of the linguistic features, so that research with one group can be interpreted to glean implications for the other.


O'Keefe (2018) offers a slightly different perspective, but one that is relevant to the question of how to increase children's language proficiency in more than one language system. She discusses ways to increase the quality of language input for preschool children in families facing economic challenges through narrative discourse during storybook interactions. Next is Terry, Gatlin, and Johnson's (2018) review of research on bilingual and bidialectal readers. Also taking a strengths-based perspective, they discuss how recent research findings with bilingual and bidialectal learners inform understanding of reading achievement gaps observed among African American and Hispanic/Latino children in schools. In doing so, they challenge the notion that the language differences bilingual and bidialectal children bring to the task of learning to read are risks. Seidenberg and MacDonald (2018) round out the issue with a brief tutorial on a statistical learning explanation of language acquisition. This theoretical explanation of language learning, and the evidence supporting it, has interesting implications for instruction and interventions aimed at exposing children systematically to language experience that can influence language acquisition and reading.


We recommend reading the articles in this issue as a collection, as each has implications for the others. Together, they offer fresh insights that will be meaningful both to researchers and to clinicians, consistent with the longstanding TLD tradition, and they have practical implications for working with and teaching bilingual and bidialectal children with and without language disorders.


-Nickola Wolf Nelson, PhD




-Gary A. Troia, PhD


Associate Editor




Lee-James R., Washington J. A. (2018). Language skills of bidialectal and bilingual children: Considering a strengths-based perspective. Topics in Language Disorders, 38(1), 5-26. [Context Link]


O'Keefe C. (2018). Professional development aimed at increasing the quality of language input during storybook interactions: Lessons from one Head Start teacher's experiences. Topics in Language Disorders, 38(1), 27-49. [Context Link]


Paradis J., Genesee F., Crago M. B. (2011). Introduction to dual language development and disorders (2nd ed., pp. 3-26). Baltimore, MD: Brookes Publishing. [Context Link]


Seidenberg M. S., MacDonald M. M. (2018). The impact of language experience on language and reading: A statistical learning approach. Topics in Language Disorders, 38(1), 66-83. [Context Link]


Terry N. P., Gatlin B., Johnson L. (2018). Same or different: How bilingual readers can help us understand bidialectal readers, Topics in Language Disorders, 38(1), 50-65.