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Improving Literacy Outcomes in Children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

Posted Oct 10 2008 1:19pm
Drew's Dad and I were finally able to attend Deaf Initiatives Navigating Your Child's Future presentation this past weekend. The presentation was supposed to take place back in March, but was postponed due to a snow storm.

One of the areas we have been concerned about is literacy. As the parent of a newly diagnosed child with hearing loss, it can be startling to learn that many deaf and hard of hearing individuals only reach a third to fourth grade reading level. I have learned that this is often because deaf or hard of hearing children are taught "whole word" reading, where they actually memorize the look of the word. Whereas, typical reading skills are developed by phonics, but required the ability to hear and say all 47 phenoms of the English language. With technology providing many options for proper amplification for our deaf or hard of hearing children, through cochlear implants and digital hearing aids, these outcomes will improve.

Karen Roudybush gave a wonderful presentation on "Bringing Literacy Home," which provided me with many activities and ideas on how to help establish a strong foundation for literacy. She shared with us that research demonstrates that the size of a child's vocabulary is a strong predictor of future reading skills, so it is important to develop a large vocabulary early on. Giving children rich language experiences throughout the day by telling and reading stories, describing the world around them and expanding on word choice (big, huge, giant, jumbo) are all ways to expand a child's vocabulary. She even gave us some activities that we can do to help expand our child's vocabulary:
  • Write on several pieces of paper different words describing "something", for example: small, tiny, little, minute. Then have your child rank the different words in terms of which one is smaller than the other. To me, minute describes something very, very small, where as tiny would mean something a little bit bigger than minute. This expands on a child's vocabulary and gives them additional ways to describe something that is small.
  • Grocery Shopping: She suggested that we always have a grocery list when shopping! (More work for me!) Hand the list to the child, complete with the word written out, and maybe a small sketch or drawing of the object. Then, have the child help you find the item in the store. This can be done even with very little children, and will help them learn to identify key grocery items, and expand their food vocabulary.
  • Purchase small Dry Erase boards and place throughout the house. Write little notes on them each day for your children. Something like, "I love you!" or "School Today" will help children learn how to read (left to right, top to bottom) and will help them realize when letters are upside down and how letters are put together to form words and sentences.

She also gave several book selections that will help enhance vocabulary and literacy. There are many different types of books, so it is important to know what you want to work on when reading. For example, if you want to work with your child on sequencing of the days of the week, a book like Cookie's Week is excellent. She gave several selection idea. I know our family has some book shopping to do:

Kathy also suggested reading books that revolve around daily routines, like bedtime, books about the changing seasons, classic stories, like The Three Bears or The Three Little Pigs, and series books, like Curious George. (Kohl's Cares for Kids is an excellent program, and is currently promoting the Curious George series. It is a great opportunity to purchase the books and toys at a great price, while giving back to the community.)

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