Do you teach children or adolescents who are reluctant to read? Some of the reasons that deaf children are reluctant readers include:
- Frustration and Failure-When deaf children repeatedly experience difficulty learning to read , they become frustrated and tired of failing. Learning to read takes a long time, for every child. Developing a sense of competence early is critical because research has shown that children who feel confident in their ability to learn to read can shrug off both the slow pace and mistakes they make along the way.
- Risk Avoidance-Some deaf children see reading as a huge risk, particularly since school reading is so public. For these children, they can avoid the risk by appearing to be uncooperative or disinterested. You can reduce the risk and the public failure by insuring that the tasks you set before the child are reasonable and the support you provide enables the child to succeed.
- Perfectionism-Some of our deaf child are very high achieving. They're perfectionists. They may take a huge amount of time to complete reading a passage because they review and check. They may excel at recalling details but resist making inferences, drawing conclusions, suggesting alternatives, and critiquing because they fear being wrong. You can't turn a perfectionist child into one who is comfortable with mistakes, but you can encourage risk-taking by making it relatively safe because of the ways you respond.
- Learned Helplessness-Deaf adolescents who meet with repeated failure in literacy can develop learned helpless, which is a sense that no matter what you do, nothing will help. They attribute any success they have in reading as lucky or the task was simple. They attribute their failures as due to lack of ability. And so they are unlikely to persist in reading. Providing successful experiences with reading, and helping your deaf students to recognize their own power to become readers, can help them attribute success to ability rather than luck.
- Self-Esteem-No one needs to tell deaf students how important reading is. They can see that success in life is highly dependent on reading including postsecondary education, quality of work, income, and access to many social activities. When adolescents are faced with inability in an area as important as reading, and they are starting to make plans for their future, this failure can affect their self-esteem. Many adolescents will turn these feelings into an adversarial relationship with the teacher. They may exhibit withdrawal and depression. Or they may exhibit hostility, defiance, and aggression. You can help build a positive self-image by engaging adolescents in literacy tasks at which they are successful and where you provide a scaffold for new learning.
- Fight or Flight-All students can see reading and reading situations as stressful some of the time. They may feel stressed because of difficulty with reading, but they can also feel stressed because of a teacher's demands to read. They may react with a fight or flight response-I won't read and you can't make me. You need to look at your demands and figure out why they may be creating stress. What kinds of success is the child experiencing in reading? What kinds of demands are you making about reading?
Barbara R. Schirmer, Ed.D.
Kent State University
Uploaded By: Debbie Slyh/Kent State University/Deaf Education Program