Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Literacy Publications: American Annals of the Deaf 1996 to 2000

Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Literacy Publications: American Annals of the Deaf 1996 to 2000

Article excerpt


Twenty articles dealing with literacy published in literary issues of the American Annals of the Deaf from 1996 to 2000 were reviewed. A movement away from the dominant Whole Language approach to a more eclectic, analytic orientation was noted. Drill and practice, written repetition, instruction in the phonological bases of language, use of bridge lists, and reliance on both American Sign Language and English-based signing were featured. Practical implications were discussed. Despite recent advances, generations-old problems in processing syntax continued, regardless of curriculum, mode of instruction, or language used in the classroom. Questions were raised as to the ability of deaf readers to take advantage of progress in captioning if basic barriers to literacy are not resolved.


The authors identified twenty publications related to literacy in the literary issues of the American Annals of the Deaf from 1996 to 2000, or approximately fifteen percent of the total number of articles. Our purpose was to identify areas of literacy that seemed to be of importance to scholars in the field and to identify issues of importance that, in our opinion, might have been neglected. Of particular concern was the extent, if any, of the apparent trends in general education toward phonics and away from Whole Language. Recent attention to the possible phonological bases of reading and the implications for deaf children would seem to be logically related to the apparent reemphasis on phonics in many public schools. Another question of interest was whether there was any indication of significant improvement in the reading and writing skills of deaf children in the past several years.

The articles contain contributions from authors from several different countries. Over the past ten years, the Annals has published increasing numbers of articles from countries outside of the United States and Canada and has taken on an international perspective. The issues and trends reviewed here seem to have commonality across countries. As with other categories, we urge the reader to refer to original articles for complete information.

Mayer & Akamatsu (2000) examined how American Sign Language (ASL) and signed forms of English might mediate progress in constructing meaning in written texts by deaf children. Children were presented ASL and English-based sign videotaped presentations of fables and were asked to produce written versions. The authors reported that all children understood the fables, and that either ASL or English-based sign was comprehensible. There was no advantage in comprehension for either form of input. In the case of the written aspect of the task, the authors concluded that students who can write in English are thinking in English. One student reported that when she saw a fable in ASL she had to think it in English to write it down. The authors argued that, since ASL has no written form, deaf students cannot acquire literacy skills in ASL as a first language (L1) to transfer to a second language (L2) such as English, but that English-based signing can be an efficient bridge to literacy. Their final conclusion (p. 400) was "...especially for deaf children of hearing parents, English-based sign would be an appropriate choice for developing L1." ASL could be either a simultaneous L1 or an L2.

Schimmel, Edwards, & Prickett (1999), in an article entitled "Reading? Pah! I got it!", reported on a program at a residential school that incorporated five elements:

1. Phonemic Awareness

2. Adapted Dolch Words

3. Bridge Lists

4. Reading Comprehension

5. ASL Development/Language Experience Stories

Training in phonemic awareness was designed to develop phonological information related to reading. Children were trained through videotapes and cards to learn Dolch words in context and to connect them with appropriate signs. …

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