Raising the Bar: Literacy for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children

By Dinah Beams

"Few children learn to love books by themselves. Someone has to lure them into the wonderful world of the written word; someone has to show them the way"

- Orville Prescott:
"A Father Reads to His Children"

The 1985 Commission on Reading report entitled "Becoming a Nation of Readers" stated, "The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children."

Literacy, the skill of being able to read and write well, is an important skill for all children. However it takes on added significance with children who are deaf or hard of hearing. The average reading level of adults who are deaf has historically been low. This in turn hampers their access to certain jobs and higher education. This statistic is one that parents and educators must work together to change!

Literacy begins long before a child enters school; the foundation for reading is laid during the early months and years of life. This period of pre-literacy is an important time to develop a love of reading. Books are an important vehicle for language learning, vocabulary building, fostering your child's imagination, and expanding his knowledge of the world. Parents can lead the way by creating a print-rich environment, giving their child access to lots of books, setting an example by reading themselves, and reading often to their child.

There is a strong connection between literacy and language; it is a reciprocal relationship. A child must have a strong language base in order to become a good reader, in turn reading will enhance the child's development of language. One of the things parents and educators can do is give deaf and hard of hearing children access to language from the beginning so that they have the necessary language tools to be able to learn to read. A child can not become an accomplished reader if he does not have language skills equal to the task.

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