Saturday, November 7, 2009

To Read Or Not To Read...

Last night my son came to me and stated it was time he read some Shakespeare. He wants to know what all the fuss is about. He also found out that his reading fluency tests at the 11th grade level and he is in the 6th grade. He wants to improve so he is trying to challenge himself.

Well that means I am going to have to read it also so I can answer questions. My first exposure to Shakespeare was when I was thirteen and I must admit it was under duress. I began to really enjoy it but that was almost thirty years ago and my brain is a bit more weary. We'll see how it goes. As a teenager I was a bit of a rebel and an acceptance letter to a school I applied to stated that they looked forward to my presence at their school. I was to be a challenge much like Katherine in "Taming of The Shrew". Perhaps this is the play we will start with.

About 11 years ago......

Literacy is a hot topic for deaf children and one we didn't take lightly. We knew that our son needed to be literate to fully enjoy life. I didn't have any educational back round in this area so it meant I had to do some research. What seemed very obvious is language holds the key. A hearing child must have a native language to access the written form. How were we to give our son access to the written form of English if his native language didn't have a written form? He needed a naturally acquired language first and his only way to acquire language naturally was visually. Yikes!

I can't pretend to have the key but here is a sample of what we did and it seemed to work.

1. ASL. Plain and simple fluency in a naturally acquired language is more than half the battle.

2. We read, we read a lot. Every day we would read to him. We would sign the words and then allow him time to look at the pictures. We would show him the text by pointing then show him the sign. We would often sign right on the book. We would read the same story over and over. I am grateful I may never have to read "Goodnight Moon" again. We would expand on the stories asking questions about the characters and pictures. We would sometimes ask what if questions like "What if there was a cupcake under the bed? Would you say goodnight or gobble it up?"

3. We would act out stories we read. His favorite were Billy Goats Gruff and The Three Little Pigs. This seemed to help him understand the structure of the story. There is a beginning , middle and end. This is also a great way for the family to involve a deaf child. I know a mom who has four kids, one is deaf. She was frustrated that the hearing kids were not including her deaf daughter enough in their play. She tried reading a story and having the whole family act it out. Everyone had fun and hear deaf daughter was thrilled.

4. We would draw pictures and have him tell a story and then we would dictate what he said under the picture. He liked to give the pictures to people and "read" them the stories.

5. We pointed out text everywhere. For example if I was reading a poster I would sign along as I read. I would read labels at the store while signing and menus at restaurants.

6. Finger spell. One of his first signs was ELMO

7. Make grocery lists and draw pictures of the items. We would have him find the items and put them in the basket.

8. I made a book with pictures of everything we did. One page might be grandma's house or items we used a lot like sink. I would label the pictures. We used this to show him where we were going or what we were doing.

9. I am a wee bit embarrassed to admit I labeled the house. My husband thought is was funny when we had guests over and they sat on a CHAIR at the TABLE.

So this is some of the stuff we did when he was little. It was not boot camp but tools we would use. We didn't ever force him. If he didn't want to read no big deal. We allowed him to set the pace. If it wasn't fun we didn't do it. Most of these ideas came from workshops, parents and teachers. I wish it would of just been all in one place.


  1. You know, I think a lot of kids would be much better readers if every family played games like this -- hearing or not.

    Personally, I love Shakespeare. I found it through televised productions (filmed like a movie) on PBS long before I learned it officially in school).

    Learning stuff officially in school sucks all the life out of things, and besides, Shakespeare wrote to be seen and acted, not read off the page, stopping every three lines to look up a word in the margins.

    I'd recommend getting a Shakespeare film on DVD, so you can watch and read along with subtitles. Also, you can pause it, and ask those what if questions, and act out scenes, etc. I introduced Shakespeare to my mother when I insisted we go see Kenneth Branaugh's Henry V for Christmas.

  2. capriuni, you are one reason I am brave enough to blog. We are struggling with my friend William. My son will not give up. You just gave us the gate! Thank you.

  3. The Shakespeare I found was part of a regular series -- every Sunday afternoon.

    By the time it was required reading in school, I was already familiar with the language.

    So I think you son is on the right track.