Academic journal article Sign Language Studies

Literacy Behaviors of Deaf Preschoolers during Video Viewing

Academic journal article Sign Language Studies

Literacy Behaviors of Deaf Preschoolers during Video Viewing

Article excerpt

ONE OF THE most pressing concerns regarding the education of deaf children is their lack of academic success as measured by their literacy skills. Most deaf children finish high school reading below a fourth-grade level (Holt 1993; Traxler 2000). This is largely due to the fact that 90 percent of deaf children with hearing families lack a strong language base (Moore and Levitan 2003). The result is that many deaf children enter school with hmited language exposure.

It has been shown that early delays in oral language development in hearing children can have a negative impact on their reading comprehension and overall academic achievement (Beimiller 1999). This is also true for deaf children as related to Hmited exposure to American Sign Language (ASL) (Morford and Mayberry 2000). Research has demonstrated a significant correlation between ASL skills and reading skills (Padden 1996; Mayberry 1993; Wilbur 2000; Padden and Ramsey 1998; Prinz and Strong 1998; Singleton et al. 1998). Deaf children of Deaf parents (DCDP) who have been exposed to ASL from birth develop literacy skills that allow them to continue to outperform deaf children with hearing parents (DCHP) on vocabulary tasks and language skills (Mayberry 1993; Mayberry and Eichen 1991).

Deaf children of hearing parents need early intervention to help them increase their early language skills. In addition, hearing parents need to learn ways to begin engaging their children in language and literacy activities at a young age in order to narrow the reading gap between deaf and hearing children. The use of educational videos or television programs is a promising method for engaging deaf children in both language and literacy activities.

Since 1970, educational television has been used as a supplemental tool to help hearing children develop emergent literacy skills. Programs such as Sesame Street, Blue's Clues, Reading Rainbow, and Between the Lions have been a successful medium for educating preschool hearing children (Rice et al. 1990; Rath 2002; Crawley et al. 2002).

Deaf children can also gready benefit from this rich educational medium (Loeterman, Paul, and Donahue 2002). However, the majority of such programs are inaccessible to deaf children because they are designed with hearing children in mind and are thus accessible only via spoken language. The purpose of the study reported here was to determine the extent to which preschool deaf children engage in literacy-related behaviors while viewing an educational video in ASL and to analyze their engagement behaviors.

Theoretical Framework

This study is grounded in the theories of emergent literacy and active viewing. The emergent literacy perspective posits that language and literacy skills develop from birth simultaneously rather than sequentially (Teale and Sulzby 1989; Sulzby and Teale 199 1). Sulzby and Teale (199 1, 4) maintain that language and literacy skills "mutually reinforce each other" and should both be introduced into children's lives as soon as possible. Researchers of the language and literacy development of deaf children have also begun adopting an emergent literacy perspective (Williams 2004).

The second theory that guides this study stems from research on educational television. The active viewing theory (Anderson and Lorch 1983) suggests that children are not passive viewers of television as previously believed. Theorists who support the active viewing theory propose that the extent to which children pay attention to television is affected by the effort they expend to comprehend the TV program. They explain that there is a "causal relationship from comprehension to attention" (ibid., 14). As applied to this study, the active viewing theory predicts that increased active viewing will enhance video comprehension.

Review of the Literature

Since there is Hmited research related to deaf children watching educational television, I examined both the research on deaf children who engage in book sharing, as well as that on hearing children who engage with educational television programs. …

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