Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Reading to Deaf Children Who Sign: A Response to Williams (2012) and Suggestions for Future Research

Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Reading to Deaf Children Who Sign: A Response to Williams (2012) and Suggestions for Future Research

Article excerpt

A COMMENTARY on Williams's (2012) invited article on the use of adapted vocabulary learning interventions focuses on three areas: (a) Vocabulary interventions with storybook reading originally designed for hearing children can be adapted for deaf children. (b) Teachers are invited to reflect on how the read-aloud process in English differs from the read-aloud process in sign. (b) Teachers are asked to consider adding drawing and writing activities to reading lessons to show young deaf readers how reading and writing are reciprocal processes. The emergent literacy theory is used, as it informs and drives instructional vocabulary teaching practices for deaf children in preschool, kindergarten, and first grade. The emergent literacy theory broadly captures cognitive, social, perceptual, and linguistic understandings of how young signing deaf children acquire both English word recognition abilities and vocabulary knowledge, among other important prereading concepts.

Keywords: prereading, emergent literacy, signing deaf children, storybook reading, vocabulary, word knowledge

In her invited essay on the promotion of vocabulary learning in young children with hearing loss (published in the Winter 2012 issue of the Annals, Williams (2012) takes an optimistic stance, recommending that seven specific classroom vocabulary interventions with storybook reading that have been used effectively with hearing children be adapted to meet the needs of deaf and hard of hearing children. Williams notes that these interventions, which she describes in her article, have yielded gains in the vocabulary learning of hearing children. Each intervention takes a whole language approach. It begins with a shared book-reading or read-aloud storybook session led by the teacher. Companion activities employ instruction that emphasizes both meaning and code. These activities include storybook reading with dialogic or interactive approaches (Lonigan & Whitehurst, 1998); explicit vocabulary instruction (Lonigan & Whitehurst, 1998); the use of props and language extension activities (Wasik & Bond, 2001); embedded "rich instruction" of specific vocabulary (Beck & McKeown, 2007); extended instruction of vocabulary before, during, and after the lesson (Coyne, McCoach, & Kapp, 2007); "anchored instruction" that focuses children's attention on the phonological and orthographic patterns in vocabulary (Silverman, 2007); and student retellings (Leung, 2008).

Writing in the context of new and recent developments such as the implementation of universal newborn hearing screening, the advances in auditory assistive technology such as digital hearing aids and cochlear implants, and the fact that more deaf infants from birth to age 3 years are enrolled in early childhood programs (Sass-Lehrer, 2011), Williams provides theoretical insight and practical classroom instructional interventions aimed at developing English vocabulary with storybook reading for young deaf children in preschool, kindergarten, and first grade.

Williams uses two working hypotheses to support her argument for vocabulary learning interventions. One is the sociocultural, socially mediated theory of Rogoff (2003), described by Williams as a process in which "young children acquire language through face-to-face or through-the-air conversation as they participate in a variety of socioculturally situated activities that are rich in meaning and coherent" (p. 502). Sociocultural theories related to early literacy have been related to children in other cultures, such as Hawaiian children (Au & Mason, 1983), children in a family in urban Appalachia (PurcellGates, 1997), children in African -American and White communities in North Carolina (Heath, 1983), and children in Latino communities (Garcia, 2000), as well as to culturally Deaf children of deaf parents (Herbold, 2008).

The second supporting hypothesis Williams presents is the Qualitative Similarity Hypothesis (QSH). …

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