Over 100 attendees from across North America gathered at the Brown Foundation Institute of Molecular Medicine at McGovern Medical School to advance studies in bilingualism among children as part of the second Bilingual Research Conference (BRC) in May, hosted by the Children’s Learning Institute (CLI).
Funded by the National Science Foundation, Dr. Susan Landry, founder and director of the Children’s Learning Institute and holder of the Albert and Margaret Alkek Chair in Early Childhood Development and Michael Matthew Knight Memorial Professorship in Pediatrics, and Dr. Maria Carlo, associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics, designed the conference as a way to gather researchers to examine the question of how bilingualism plays a role in children’s academic and developmental trajectories, specifically during their early school years. The conference was headlined by two distinguished keynote speakers – Dr. Catherine Snow from Harvard University and Dr. Ellen Bialystok of York University. Snow emphasized the importance of instructional approaches that improve reading outcomes for both monolinguals and bilinguals, while Bialystok focused on how bilingualism is associated with changes in both brain and behavior.
The BRC had a total of 21 poster presentations and 32 paper presentations, including local and national scholars such as Dr. Arturo Hernandez from the University of Houston, Dr. Perla Gamez from Loyola University Chicago, Dr. Diane August from the America Institutes for Research, Dr. Mariela Paez from Boston College, and Dr. David Birdsong from The University of Texas at Austin.
Some of the other papers that were presented at the BRC addressed key topics in bilingual research such as bilingualism and cognition and instruction promoting dual-language learners’ academic development in the L1 or L2. The presentations demonstrated the importance of the effect that bilingualism plays in relation to academic achievement in language, literacy, STEM, and other subjects.
The meeting also established a strong network among these scholars, enabling them to discuss the current state of knowledge in this research domain, identify productive new lines of inquiry, and enhance the potential for future collaborative partnerships. CLI’s hope is that the BRC becomes a tradition to encourage bilingual researchers and experts to come together and advance research in this area.
CLI and the BRC received community support from H-E-B, Hatch Early Learning, and Scholastic Education.