SASL Journal Vol. 1, No. 1 - Page 35

Reading Methodology for Deaf Children Supalla A Sketch on Reading Methodology for Deaf Children Samuel J. Supalla University of Arizona Abstract A well-established reading methodology is much needed in the field of deaf education. While the concept of signed language reading is intriguing and underappreciated, it has some of the clearest implications for how to teach reading to deaf children. This paper begins by covering historical attempts to have deaf children learn to read in signed language. The distinction between signed language reading and spoken language reading is part of the paper’s creation of a cohesive theoretical basis outlining best reading instruction practices. A key element of the discussion is how deaf children find text readable when it represents the language that they know, American Sign Language (ASL). This includes utilizing glossing as an intermediary system and reading methodology which enable deaf children to experience a transition to English literacy, all the while learning to read in ASL. Some indications of signed language reading (associated with glossing) are laid out through a review of published research reports. Deaf children in a charter school setting are highlighted in a variety of reading behaviors resembling hearing learners in early elementary school years. Signed language reading incorporates parallel concepts such as sounds, phonics, phonemic awareness, reading-aloud, and sounding out. The paper’s emphasis on the liberal application of key concepts for reading processes produces a scenario where deafness may no longer serve as a barrier to reading. Introduction Teaching deaf children how to read is highly desirable, yet elusive. With this paper, the focus is on understanding reading methodology and how it can help deaf children learn to read. Over the years, educators have debated language issues that are still relevant today. However, the primary function of a school is to teach reading and writing skills. Thus, to help redirect educators towards literacy with deaf children, a formal distinction between signed language reading and spoken language reading must be made. This begins a dialogue on how deaf children can best learn to read. Not only are American Sign Language (ASL) and English two distinct languages, they represent languages in two different modalities: signed vs. spoken (Singleton, S. Supalla, Litchfield, & Schley, 1998). Deaf children are known for being native signers and thinking and processing in signed language (Lane, Hoffmeister, & Bahan, 1996). This prevalence of signed language knowledge must be seen as an asset in considerations of reading pedagogy. This includes making ASL text a part of deaf children’s reading development experiences. With English, the reading situation is understandably problematic for deaf children as they do not hear the language in question. This is where spoken language reading has serious limitations. Children born profoundly deaf or becoming deaf before the age of two would not have the ability to internalize English and utilize the spoken language knowledge for reading development purposes. Descriptions of the experience of learning to read in English as bewildering for deaf children (Hoffmeister & Caldwell-Harris, 2014) is especially troubling. A child who can hear would have spoken language knowledge in place and use it as a reference point for learning to read English. In contrast, the deaf child does not have this type of SASLJ, Vol. 1, No. 1 – Fall/Winter 2017 35