Academic journal article Sign Language Studies

Ways of Taking from Books in ASL Book Sharing

Academic journal article Sign Language Studies

Ways of Taking from Books in ASL Book Sharing

Article excerpt

[T]he culture children learn as they grow up is, in fact, "ways of taking meaning" from the environment around them. The means of making sense from books and relating their contents to knowledge about the real world is but one "way of taking" that is often interpreted as "natural" rather than learned . . . [Tjeachers (and researchers alike) have not recognized that ways of taking from books are as much a part of learned behavior as are ways of eating, sitting, playing games, and building houses.

Shirley Brice Heath, "What No Bedtime Story Means'

The incorporation of different modes of representation in sharing children's picture books through ASL exemplifies the nature of semiosis, or meaning making (Kress 2010).This article discusses ASL book sharing as both a cultural practice and a multimodal literacy practice, which, in Heath and Street's (2008) terms, refers to a system of representation wherein the written mode is embedded in other modes. In ASL book sharing, the written mode is embedded in ASL storytelling, and children's picture books are themselves multimodal resources that Deaf ASL users utilize in distinct ways.

Adopting an ethnographic perspective, I studied a series of eleven workshops held over a ten-month period in Ontario, Canada, for teaching hearing parents how to read books through ASL with their preschool-age Deaf and hard of hearing children.The study addresses the recognized gaps in Ontario's early intervention programming in terms of bilingual ASL and English services (Snoddon 2012) and the need for further research on bilingual early literacy initiatives for young Deaf children. The processes and impact of this project were evaluated through individual and focus group interviews with parent and instructor-participants as well as observations of workshops. In particular, the study focused on the teaching goals and strategies of three Deaf instructor-participants working with children and parents and mediating between English texts and ASL.The workshop instructors presented ASL readings of children's books as ways of seeing texts and ways of taking from these texts in order to facilitate children's comprehension and engagement in the ASL book-sharing process.

The next section reviews the research on young Deaf children's emergent literacy and involvement in book sharing as a multimodal literacy practice as well as research on the approaches taken by Deaf, ASL-using adults when reading books with Deaf children. The study design, methodology, and participants are then introduced, and findings described related to the perceived role of ASL book-sharing workshops as a multimodal literacy practice for parentand instructorparticipants in a community-based, early learning context.

Emergent Literacy, Book Sharing, and Multimodal Literacies

Emergent literacy is defined as young children's literacy learning prior to conventional, school-based reading and writing instruction (Mason and Allen 1986; Sulzby and Teale 1991). The concept of emergent literacy has extended the focus of research from children's reading to a wider concept of literacy that recognizes that "reading, writing, and oral language develop concurrently and interrelatedly in literate environments" (Sulzby and Teale 1991, 728). However, some educators of Deaf children have often focused on language learning rather than literacy, with the view that oral (i.e., spoken or signed) language must be acquired before literacy learning can take place (Heineman-Gosschalk and Webster 2003; Webster and Heineman-Gosschalk 2000; Webster 2000; Williams 1994).This view aligns with the older "reading readiness" perspective, wherein students learn how to read in a linear fashion, with the formal aspects of reading acquired only after mastery of sequential skills tied to phonological coding (Williams 1994). For an instance of this perspective, a case study of a mainstreamed, ten-year-old Deaf student in New Zealand whose auditory-verbal therapist suggested that, in addition to stopping the use of signed language, which allowed the student to demonstrate his comprehension of text, he should "repeat all the previous levels of reading books" in his remedial reading group "until he could speak all the words clearly" (McKee 2008, 526). …

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