In 2004, researchers at the University of Colorado, colleagues from the Pearson Learning Group and seven school districts in Colorado and Texas began pilot testing a biliteracy intervention program for Spanish/English speaking bilingual elementary school children that would simultaneously accelerate their literacy development in both languages. The first full implementation of Literacy Squared began in the fall of 2005, and Phase I was completed in the spring of 2009. Phase II is being implemented from 2009 through 2012 in 13 schools in Oregon and 3 schools in Colorado. The Literacy Squared intervention is both research-based and research-tested. Its conceptual framework draws on research that posits that a dire need exists for a new theory about literacy instruction for bilingual children (Bernhardt, 2003; Grant & Wong, 2003), and that second language literacy acquisition is greatly enhanced if learners are literate in their first language (August & Shanahan, 2006).

The framework is based on three research-based concepts that suggest that the improvement of schooling for emerging bilingual children can be accomplished via programs that develop biliteracy through attention to literacy in Spanish as well as English, attend to the quality of instruction, and plan instruction to include direct and explicit attention to cross-language connections. This means that the language of instruction for literacy includes both Spanish and English, and that instruction in these two languages is planned in purposeful and intentional ways to create trajectories toward biliteracy. The Literacy Squared intervention includes authentic instructional approaches in Spanish and English that respect and attend to the internal structures of each of the languages, emphasizing direct, explicit, and collaborative instructional approaches that have proven to be beneficial for emerging bilingual children. Instruction is planned to include direct and explicit attention to cross-language connections to enable children to learn how to use both of their languages in strategic ways to enhance their biliteracy development.