6. Will deaf/hard of hearing children learn emergent literacy skills in the same manner their hearing peers do?

      Lartz, Marebeth Nelson and L. Jill Lestina. Strategies Deaf Mothers Use When Reading to Their Young Deaf or Hard of Hearing Children. American Annals of the Deaf, v.140, no.4, p.358-362

      We have established the fact that there are truly no set stages that emergent readers must acquire. However, studies have shown that d/hh children do acquire reading in the same manner as their peers to a certain point. It has been documented that the typical d/hh students graduating high school does not acquire reading abilities past a fourth grade reading level. At this time experts are baffled concerning the reason for this phenomenon. There are a few theories and research is in progress.

     Deaf children of deaf parents typically have better reading skills than d/hh kids of hearing parents. Here are some strategies deaf mothers use with d/hh children:

  1. The Sign Placement strategy allows the child to see the picture in the book and the mother’s signing at the same time.
  2. Text Paired with Signed Demonstration. This strategy appears to clarify the text and demonstrate the real meaning of the story.
  3. Real world connections between the text and the child’s experience were used. By using this strategy, the mother makes a real world connection to the child’s life experience and the text in the story.
  4. Attention Maintenance strategy – the physical prompts used included tapping the child on the shoulder or lap, nudging the child with an elbow, or moving the book up and down. At no time did the mothers touch their children’s faces or necks, which is consistent with deaf culture norms.
  5. Use of facial expressions and body posture to illustrate different characters in the book.
  6. Use of non-manual signals as questions.
      I knew what the average reading level was for d/hh students. Now I am glad to know that there is a reason behind it though researchers are currently stumped as to what that reason may be. I feel it is important that we encourage our special children and challenge them to see if more students are capable of breaking the stigma.
     It may seem strange, but parents never have to stop reading to their children. You will not only encourage your child to read more you will also increase his and your own vocabulary.

      Andrews, Jean F. and Nancy E. Taylor. (1987) From Sign To Print: A Case Study of Picture Book "Reading" between Mother and Child, Sign Language Studies, v.56, p. 261-274, Fall 1987

Please direct comments or questions to:
Kelly Luke
Parent/Infant Outreach Specialist
North Dakota School for the Deaf
9th Floor/DPI
600 East Boulevard Avenue
Bismarck, ND 58505