Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Fostering Reader Response and Developing Comprehension Strategies in Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children

Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Fostering Reader Response and Developing Comprehension Strategies in Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children

Article excerpt

In response to the increasing use of children's trade books in school reading programs, this article reviews the use of real text, drawing on the application and interaction of two distinct perspectives: reader response theory and comprehension instruction. The authors propose the need to combine knowledge of instruction with the new focus on the role of the reader within response theory and within comprehension research. This article suggests how comprehension instruction and response to literature activities can intersect in the classroom for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. Explicit models and instructional strategies are discussed in the framework of this bimodal approach to reading. A sample list of high quality children's books, including several trade books that feature deaf or hard of hearing characters and issues, is provided as a resource for teachers.

As many teachers of deaf and hard of hearing students set aside the basal reader and rely upon literature in children's trade books for their reading programs, they are faced with an important question: How can I help children to both understand and enjoy the stories they read in children's books? Indeed, teaching reading with children's books merges two pedagogical areas, reading comprehension instruction and fostering response to literature, which until recently have been understood and treated quite separately, both theoretically and in classroom practice.

In order to accomplish and combine both objectives, students' comprehension and enjoyment of children's literature, teachers may find that they need more than the one or two reading methods courses taken in teacher preparation programs. Recent research suggests that when teachers treat literature as if it were part of a basal reading series, it is because they lack familiarity with children's literature, they lack depth of knowledge about the reading process, and they lack education combining both areas within a literaturebased approach to reading development (Allington & Guice, 1993; Cox & Many,1992; Doleman, 1993; McGee, 1992).

Studies of deaf students' reading fluency and text comprehension skills (Brown & Brewer, 1996; Ewoldt, 1981) as well as practices among teachers of deaf and hard of hearing children provide substantive evidence that deaf and hard of hearing children can benefit from literature-based approaches to fostering their literacy development. However, McGillFranzen and Gormley (1980) demonstrated the need to engage deaf students in text that is accessible. They found that deaf students' prior knowledge of concepts within text materials provided them with access to text that may otherwise be syntactically complex and above their assessed reading levels. Brown and Brewer (1996) investigated the inference skills among deaf and hearing college students. Their findings indicate that skilled readers, irrespective of hearing status, responded to comprehension and predictive inference tasks with similar efficacy and accuracy, while less skilled readers demonstrated greater difficulties with word recognition.

The theoretical basis for the enjoyment of children's literature relies upon reader response theory, which influences the recent movement toward the use of "real" text as the core of many elementary school reading programs (Rosenblatt, 1978, 1991). Rosenblatt (1978), as the articulator of reader response theory, posits that the transaction between reader and text is one in which the reader "creates" the literary piece (the "poem"), which exists only as this transaction occurs.

Current conceptions of what it means to comprehend text and to facilitate the comprehension of text (Pearson, 1993; Robinson, Faraone, Hittleman, & Unruh, 1990) also influence the movement toward use of children's literature in reading programs. The heightened role of the reader in the reading comprehension process is evident in Pearson's (1993) review of recent trends in comprehension research. …

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