What Makes Some Deaf Children (But Not Others) Good Readers?

Discussion in 'Deaf News' started by Miss-Delectable, Feb 8, 2009.

  1. Miss-Delectable

    Miss-Delectable New Member

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    What Makes Some Deaf Children (But Not Others) Good Readers? : OUPblog

    Marc Marschark is a Professor and Director of the Center for Education Research Partnerships at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, a college of Rochester Institute of Technology, and Honorary Professor in the Moray House School of Education at the University of Edinburgh and School of Psychology at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. His book, Raising and Educating a Deaf Child: A Comprehensive Guide to the Choices, Controversies, and Decisions Faced by Parents and Educators is a guide through the conflicting suggestions and programs for raising deaf children, as well as the likely implications of taking one direction or the other. In the excerpt below Marschark looks at why some deaf children are much better readers than others.

    Perhaps more than any other area, the reading and writing abilities of deaf children have been the focus of attention from educators and researchers for decades. Taken together, the results and conclusions of relevant studies provide an enlightening, if disappointing, picture of deaf children’s skills in this regard.

    Many of the errors that deaf children exhibit in reading and writing are the same as those made by people learning English as a second language. A variety of programs therefore has been been developed to instruct teachers of deaf children in methods like those used in teaching English as a second language… Although their reading behaviors and their writing may look similar to second-language learners, we need to remember that most deaf children will come to school without true fluency in any language. As a result, second-language learning methods may be inappropriate or only address some of deaf student’s needs. While the priority should be to ensure that deaf children acquire first language fluency during the preschool years, teachers still have to teach them to read and write in English, regardless of their prior language experience. So, we might as well face up to the issues. First, we have to take into account the variation among deaf children and the influences of early language environments, types of hearing loss, and factors like parent and child motivation. Considerable resources and effort devoted to improving deaf children’s literacy have gone into trying to teach them the skills and strategies that work for hearing children, even though it is apparent that deaf and hearing children often have very different background knowledge and learning strategies… Perhaps as a result, despite decades of concerted effort, most deaf children in this country still progress far more slowly than hearing children in learning to read. This means that deaf students leaving school are at a relatively greater disadvantage, lagging farther behind hearing peers, than when they entered. At the same time, there are clearly many deaf adults and children who are excellent readers and excellent writers. What accounts for the difference?

    A variety of sources claim that deaf children of deaf parents, on average, are better readers than deaf children of hearing parents…Why? Deaf children’s relative lack of early language fluency when they have hearing parents clearly plays an important role in their reading difficulties, and several investigators have found a relationship between deaf children’s ASL skills and their reading levels…These studies have all been correlational, however, demonstrating that high or low levels of performance in one of these domains are often accompanied by similar levels in the other. Similarly, other investigations have shown a similar link between speech and literacy skills in deaf children with deaf or hearing parents who use unspoken language…In some of those studies, the contributions of greater residual hearing and speech skill have not been distinguished, but the larger point is that early access to fluent language is central to deaf children’s gaining literacy skills. For those children who are not able to benefit fully from spoken language, an early foundation in language through ASL or another natural sign language would appear to be a promising alternative. But the situation is more complex.

    …there are other differences between deaf and hearing parents other than their primary mode of communication. The two groups may have very different expectations for their deaf children in terms of academic achievement. They also may differ in their ability to help their children in reading-related activities, and we know that children whose parents spend time working with them on academic and extracurricular activities are more motivated and have greater academic success. Is there some reason to believe that it is parental hearing status rather than early language fluency that enable some deaf children to be better readers?

    In an earlier book, Psychological Development of Deaf Children, I reviewed 30 years of studies concerning the reading abilities of deaf children of deaf parents as compared to deaf children of hearing parents. The results were surprising because I fully expected that deaf children with deaf parents would always come out on top as a result of their early exposure to language. Well, deaf children of deaf parents have been shown to be better readers than deaf children of hearing parents in some studies, but others have shown no difference. Importantly, none of the studies to date have considered the reading skills of parents, and those investigations that have included deaf parents largely have been conducting in places known for having relatively high numbers of educated deaf adults. It therefore seems likely that any generalization about a link between children’s reading abilities and parental hearing status per se will be extremely limited. After all, if 50 percent of deaf and hard-of-hearing adults read below the fourth grade level, how can they be good reading models for their deaf (or hearing) children?

    Indeed, it now appears that regardless of whether their parents are deaf or hearing, deaf children who are better readers turn out to be the ones who had their hearing losses diagnosed earlier, had early access to fluent language (usually via sign language), and were exposed to English. At the same time, having a mother who is a good signer appears to be more important than whether she is deaf or hearing or the precise age at which a chld learns to sign, as long as it is early…Regrettably, there is no single predictor of reading success that applies to all deaf children, and the combinations of factors that positively and negatively influence reading development are not yet fully understood. It may be, for example, that different environments lead to different strengths and weaknesses (for example, big vocabularies but little grammatical knowledge) depending on when, where, and from whom children learn their first and second languages. Thus, deaf children of hearing parents tend to have better speech and speechreading abilities thatn deaf children of deaf parents, but those abilities do not seem linked to better reading or other academic achievement even though they would seem to support the phonological part of reading… Furthermore, while it is tempting to assume that a deaf child’s early exposure to language through their deaf parents would provide a considerable advantage in learning to read, this advantage may be offset by the fact that ASL vocabulary and syntax do not parallel those of printed English…
     
  2. shel90

    shel90 Audist are not welcome Premium Member

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    It is a shame that many people allow deaf children to be denied access to a fluent language during their early years cuz it does affect their ability to read and write fluently.
     
  3. jillio

    jillio New Member

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    Marsharck is a genius in my book. I have relied on his research and studies for over 20 years now. Those of you who are familiar with my positions on deaf ed no doubt can see the influence his work has had on me. If you truly want answers to some of the troubling questions regarding language, the mind, and the education of deaf students, there is none better than Marc Marsharck to look to for the answers.
     
  4. shel90

    shel90 Audist are not welcome Premium Member

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    We all know that people who value speech first and foremost would most likely discard Marsharck's findings.
     
  5. jillio

    jillio New Member

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    We've seen that happen time and again on this forum with the oralists. I have cited him too many times and had people totally ignore the validity of his research. But it still is the most valid and the most valuable research out there for people who are concerned not about speech, but about literacy and language. It is really a shame that more don't pay attention. He has devoted his life to finding the answers that will truly benefit deaf children. As the mother of a deaf child, I am extremely grateful to him for his dedication.
     
  6. shel90

    shel90 Audist are not welcome Premium Member

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    Well, those who value speech first are responsible for the literacy difficulties for deaf children. If they can sleep well at night, they dont have a heart for these chidlren.
     
  7. jillio

    jillio New Member

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    Agreed. I sure couldn't sleep well knowing I was contributing to the problem, but I guess some people can.
     
  8. shel90

    shel90 Audist are not welcome Premium Member

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    Do u have any idea of how difficult it is to teach children literacy skills if they dont have a strong first language? There are some days I just want to scream although it is not their fault but I do want to choke someone's throat for allowing this injustice to continue.

    I always found deaf children of deaf parents so much easier to teach in all content areas especially in language arts. They can understand the differences between the parts of speech and what they are for so I can be able to explain to them that English has a different syntax than ASL. Those who dont have a strong first language have no idea what ASL or English is...they just know that ASL is using the hands and English is reading and writing but the concept of both of them being languages is too abstract for them due to not having a first language. Usually, they would finally get it probably in middle school or high school and then they finally "get it" about nouns, verbs, adjectives and etc..
     
  9. Byrdie714

    Byrdie714 New Member

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    Simple: Parents that read to their children will have children that read.

    Parents that read for enjoyment will have children that read for enjoyment.

    Want to improve your child's literacy skills? Pick up a book and read with them!
     
  10. jillio

    jillio New Member

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    Absolutely, I understand how difficult it is. It is like trying to teach a baby to skip when they haven't even learned to crawl yet. And the shame of it is, when they don't get the basics until late, they never learn to use language the way it was intended to be used. It affects not just reading comprehension, and writing, but their ability to think in an abstract and creative way and to come up with innovative solutions to problems. People just don't seem to get how pervasive the problem of language deprivation is for a deaf kid.
     
  11. Doug5

    Doug5 New Member

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    I cant imagine how much a deaf child misses if he/she cant understand speech and there is no sign language present.

    It would be like being in a foreign country not knowing the language. you would have no clue whats goin on
     
  12. shel90

    shel90 Audist are not welcome Premium Member

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    The story of my life in a nutshell!
     
  13. Doug5

    Doug5 New Member

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    Those experts against signing are idiots. I challenge them to attend a university in china and see how much they learn. Then when they fail, I will tell them its their fault for not suceeding.
     
  14. JamieLynn

    JamieLynn Active Member

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    Thanks for posting that article! Very interesting! :)

    JamieLynn
     
  15. Oceanbreeze

    Oceanbreeze New Member

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    That's true.
     
  16. CatoCooper13

    CatoCooper13 New Member

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    I would reckon it's due to how parents raised their deaf child(ren), whether they were exposed early to reading books and having had their deafness diagnosed early. It really depends on the circumstances the child(ren) are reared in. It varies from family to family, really.
    I'm a Deaf child of hearing parents and I grew up watching my mother read book after book, plus she learned to use sign language from when I was about 6 months old, I would say. I also mainstreamed in a deaf program at a public school from grade 1 to 4 before I transferred to a Deaf state school where I completed my education.
     
  17. jillio

    jillio New Member

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    According to Marsharck, it would be your mother's use of sign early that made the biggest difference. I am inclined to agree with him.

    You were fortunate, either way.
     
  18. dreama

    dreama New Member

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    I like this sort of research. It makes a lot of sense.
     
  19. VamPyroX

    VamPyroX bloody phreak from hell

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    That's a good article.

    I've often seen some deaf students consider "English" as something for school and nothing else. So, they don't take it seriously enough to actually learn it and use it.

    When I was tutoring some students from NTID, I've actually had a few say... "Why do we have to learn English? We're deaf."
     
  20. Daredevel7

    Daredevel7 Adrenaline Junky Premium Member

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    Too bad that most likely they didn't have an early implementation of English.
     

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