So I often see people stating that deaf children struggle to read. This is so strange for me because it is an area where my son doesn't struggle at all in fact he is way above grade level. I know of other deaf children who also not only excel but love to read.
My son tells me that at the deaf school the other kids don't like reading and I have also been told this by many of the children.
This morning I was just thinking what is the difference? Here are some thoughts I have,
We always expected him to read. We never bought into any of the stereotypes. If you raise the bar in your internal thinking the child will rise to the occasion. We didn't have a nervous stressed out approach to reading. He never sensed any fear of failure and this helps a lot. It was always fun. We made reading part of our natural daily rhythm. He was read books at all levels and allowed access to books everywhere.
When he was little we bought him some books for children that have both the ASL gloss and English word. His favorite was the ABC book by Linda Bove. We never bought anything that had SEE. We would read books over and over and sometimes change the story.
When he was about 5 we introduced chapter books. The challenge I had was keeping the book open while I signed. My husband found a weight at a book store that hold the pages open and that was solved. I think reading long stories over several nights motivated him to want to do it himself. If we had just stayed at his reading level he may have been bored and not realized what could do in the future if he learned to read.
We are a family of storytellers. I realized today each member of the family loves to tell stories. When my son was little my husband would dress up with a beard and funny coat and hat and visit us as story man. He really believed this old man had come to tell stories. When he was older he would dress up and join my husband to tell his sister stories. I think this also helped. Many parents are too self conscience to try and make up a story but really anyone can do it. Right now look around your computer and pick up an object. Tell a story about it. Just think of a crazy reason why that object could cause conflict. Maybe your child is not sharing. The story could be about a selfish prince who hoards paper clips leaving the village awash in unorganized paper. A good book to get started is "Storytelling With Children" by Nancy Mellon. Don't worry even if you are the most serious person nobody outside your house will see you so give it a try.
We live in a reading home. What I mean by this is we all love to read. I walked through the house to see how this looks and there was only 1 room (bathroom) that didn't have books. Both children have bookshelves full of books, the kitchen has cookbooks. The living room have a box of library books and 6 shelves packed. The basement has paperback, reference books for my husband and art books near where I paint. In my studio space upstairs again reference books, In our bedroom more books . My son sees us read for pleasure. I also read books with him if he tells me it might be of interest to me.
We encouraged him to read about what he was interested in. If he wants to learn something we go to the library. We don't teach him to depend on others to learn and don't jump on the computer first. If you want to learn to cook, get a cookbook. Need to fix your car? Well their are books for that. He loves comic books. So he has a ton of books on how to write and draw them. Once he came home and with his pants low showing his boxers. I was startled he wanted to follow the crowd on this one. I told him that the origin of that fashion was gang related. When a gang member goes to prison they take the belt so the pants fall down. The outside gang members do it out of solidarity. Or at least that is what I had been told. We talked about what is a gang. I explained there have always been gangs from pirates, terrorists and organized crime. We went and got books, we studied what a gang is. I told him he could wear his pants low if he did his research and still wanted to have people see him that way. Books give him power to be in control of his choices. He doesn't have to follow his peers if he has more information and he can always win the debate.
Reading is not homework, it is not a task. It is something we all do to expand and entertain ourselves. It is important that the child is following his interests. If he wants to read comic books and you want him to read classic literature it can cause conflict and steer him away from the joy of reading.
I think of other homes I have visited and it often strikes me that there are often no books. We show them the importance of their learning to read yet the home sends them another message. Even if a child attends a school where ASL is the language of direct instruction they still come home. a parent is a child's first teacher. Have you noticed how if a dad is really into sports the child often follows? If a home is full of music the child usually absorbs the same interest? If you don't read the message is not natural that they should.
My son reads so much that at times in the past I have had to restrict it. He reads while eating, often while walking and I suspect sometimes while sleeping. He is so busy at school now there is much more balance. He still reads a lot but has more activities with his peers to keep him busy. I still think it is funny that I am one of the few moms of a deaf kid who has to deal with all of the books.
So my advice would be if you want your child to read, read yourself. Don't focus on the outcome of your child's literacy, enjoy the process. Expect him to read, deaf does not equal illiterate. Most important find ways to tell him you love him everyday.