Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

Teachers' Experiences with Literacy Instruction for Dual-Media Students Who Use Print and Braille

Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

Teachers' Experiences with Literacy Instruction for Dual-Media Students Who Use Print and Braille

Article excerpt

Vision loss can affect a student's proficiency with learning to read and write. Teachers of students with visual impairments are responsible for conducting comprehensive assessments to determine the optimum primary literacy medium for their students and to identify if there is a need for dual-media instruction in both print and braille (Koenig & Holbrook, 2010). Visual efficiency, reading efficiency, and prognosis are important considerations in the assessment process (Bell, Ewell, & Mino, 2013; Koenig & Holbrook, 2010). If a student is likely to experience progressive vision loss, it is essential to address both immediate and long-term literacy needs, which may require providing reading and writing instruction in both print and braille. Some students begin literacy instruction as dual-media learners, some students begin as print readers and later learn to read braille, and, in rare cases, some students initially read braille and later learn to read print (Koenig & Holbrook, 2010).

Research investigating the reading and academic performance of students who are dual-media learners is limited. Lusk and Corn (2006) gathered information about 103 students in the United States and Canada who were receiving simultaneous literacy instruction in both print and braille. Teachers reported that although 35% of their students were reading below grade level in print, 57% were reading below grade level in braille (Lusk & Corn, 2006). These findings were of concern, since both reading proficiencies were so low. Identification of the factors, assessment strategies, and materials necessary to support increased print and braille reading efficiency were identified as areas for further study. In addition, Lusk and Corn (2006) suggested that future research explore at what level of visual acuity and visual field should dual media be implemented.

A variety of approaches exist for providing braille literacy instruction, including beginning with uncontracted or contracted braille; using a basal reading approach; implementing a whole-language approach; using an individualized, student-centered approach; or utilizing a combination of two or more of these. Prior to the ABC Braille Study, a clear consensus could not be reached on the most effective strategies for teaching braille reading skills (D'Andrea, 2009). The ABC Braille Study found that introduction to more contractions earlier in instruction correlated to better performance on reading measures such as vocabulary, decoding, spelling, and comprehension (Wall Emerson, Holbrook, & D'Andrea, 2009). The authors concluded that regardless of the approach used to introduce the braille code, basic reading skills and processes should be the primary focus of braille literacy instruction (Wall Emerson et al., 2009).

Students with effective literacy skills can derive meaning from what they read, which significantly affects motivation for reading and leads to higher levels of reading achievement (Melekoglu & Wilkerson, 2013). Students who are less engaged in reading are at risk of failing to learn to read proficiently (Morgan, Fuchs, Compton, Cordray, & Fuchs, 2008). If students lack the literacy skills to obtain meaning from what they read, their motivation for reading decreases or fails to develop altogether. Melekoglu and Wilkerson (2013) reported that a lack of reading motivation limited students' willingness to improve critical reading skills and strategies necessary for academic success. In contrast, students with higher levels of motivation for recreational reading were characterized by increased academic performance and positive reading behaviors such as engagement and comprehension (Naeghel, Keer, Vansteenkiste, & Rosseel, 2012).

Reading motivation trends among students who read braille mirror those of their print-reading peers. Data from the longitudinal ABC Braille Study demonstrated that pre-kindergarten through fourth grade students in the high-achieving reading group were more likely than students in the low-achieving reading group to read by themselves and to report that they liked reading (Sacks, Hannan, & Erin, 2011). …

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