One of the most important things you can do for your child, deaf or not, is READ, READ, READ. Read to them, read with them, encourage them to read to themselves and to you. Set a good example by reading a lot yourself, and show them everyday situations where reading and literacy are part of a productive, enriched adult life. Reading can open worlds to your child, and it is a key skill for success in all other academic disciplines. Here are just a few of my favorite reading-related resources for parents:
“Ten Books a Day Keep the Doctor Away” by Lea Donovan Watson, MS, CCC, Cert. AVT. This article gives a quick, concise rationale for the importance of including books in listening and spoken language therapy for children with hearing loss.
The Read-Aloud Handbookby Jim Trelease. This book is an amazing resource and a primer for parents, teachers, and therapists on reading aloud to children. The book is full of fascinating facts and solid research on the importance of early literacy, yet, despite its academic foundation, the text is easily understood and accessible to parents. The last section of the book includes a great index of books for every age, reading level, and topic of interest. It’s a must-read for anyone who works with children, and you’ll feel like a master story-teller in no time!
Wordless books can be great as well! Have your child “read” to you — their ability to narrate a story can speak volumes about their language development. What aspects of a story (sequencing, descriptors, characters, pronouns, etc. — all aspects of language and grammar are in there somewhere) has your child mastered? Which need work? This is a great way to do a “spot-check” of the child’s language while engaging in some literary enrichment in a non-threatening, non-testing way. Great wordless books include the “Carl” series by Alexandra Day and several of Tomie dePaola’s books. (There are MANY more. Ask your children’s library at your local public library!)
Some things to keep in mind when reading to/with children:
DON’T follow the rules! You don’t have to finish the book, you don’t have to read the pages in order, and you CAN change the words if you see fit! A good storyteller can adapt to the child’s needs and responses. If your child LOVES the illustration on page three and wants to talk about it until the cows come home… great! You might not make it to the end of the story, but the benefits of child-centered language development are well worth the detour!
DO encourage all children to read, and acknowledge reading in ALL of its forms. As children outgrow the “picture book” stage, many seem to lose interest in reading. But do they really? Or are their reading interests simply outside the realm of what schools traditionally consider “acceptable” reading material (i.e. novels and young-adult fiction). Some children may claim they “hate” reading in school, but will happily sit down and devour the manual to their newest video game, or spend hours pouring over the directions on how to assemble their latest model car. While this might not be “school reading” it is still reading, and uses many of the same valuable skills as reading a novel would. Reading a recipe, reading a magazine, reading baseball statistics — it’s all reading! Find what works for your child… the only “bad” reading is no reading at all!