Born to Read

For decades, literacy has been the Achilles’ Heel of deaf education.  Historically, students with hearing loss educated using methods that did not focus on listening and spoken language have achieved abysmally low reading scores[1].  But our children with hearing loss are BORN TO READ!  How?  Well, even though their ears aren’t working, their brains are!  Once we establish maximal auditory access from the ears to the brain using digital hearing aids, Bahas, cochlear implants, FM systems, soundfields, etc., we have unlocked the pathway to access the great capacity of the auditory cortex of the human brain to lead to language and literacy acquisition[2].  Couple auditory access with a therapy approach that uses listening and spoken language, and you’ve got a winning combination[3].  It’s not magic, it just takes technology and focused, deliberate work.

But who said work isn’t fun?  Some of my favorite young readers recently shared with me an excellent children’s book that emphasizes the power of literacy and love of books — a great message for parents, children, and readers of all ages.  The book is called Born to Read written by Judy Sierra and illustrated by Marc Brown (best known for the “Arthur” series).  The book tells the story of Sam, a little boy who grows up reading everywhere and uses literacy skills to solve everyday (and not-so-everyday) problems throughout his life.  Unlike some children’s literature, the text isn’t “dumbed down”.  It uses a good mix of new and old vocabulary, including some unusual words a child might not hear anywhere else (and remember, the more words a young child is exposed to, the better!).  Literacy is shown in context, fulfilling functional roles in activities of daily living like reading maps, going shopping, and using language to solve problems.  This is great, rich material with many aspects parents and educators can appreciate.  For children, though… it’s just plain fun!  The illustrations are beautiful and complex, the rhyming text is melodic and funny, and little bookworms will love spotting familiar children’s stories “hidden” throughout the book.

I loved this book so much, I went out an bought some copies for myself and to share with others.  Who can resist a story with messages like, “Readers win and winners read!”, “Yes, readers can do anything!” and “Yes, readers can go anyplace!”

Happy reading and happy hearing, everyone!

[1] http://research.gallaudet.edu/Literacy/#reading

[2] Geers, A. and Moog, J.  (1989).  Factors predictive of the development of literacy in profoundly hearing-impaired adolescents.  The Volta Review, 91(2), 69-86.

[3] Robertson, L. and Flexer, C.  (1993).  Reading development: a parent survey of children with hearing impairment who developed speech and language through the auditory-verbal method.  The Volta Review, 95(3), 253-261.

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