Early Reading Development in Young Deaf Children: Supportive Family Contexts

Lutz, Lori, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Tomlinson, Carol, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

Early language is strongly associated with children's developing the foundation for early reading. Most deaf children are born to hearing parents who are not always prepared to address the language and communication needs of their deaf child. The study focuses on developing an understanding of families' ecologies that may influence the early reading experiences of young deaf children and of factors that may support deaf children's processes of becoming early readers. Parents and teachers of six kindergarten children, ages 5 to 6, participated in the qualitative study. The multicase study focused on (a) the development of individual case histories and (b) the development of assertions through the analysis of patterns in these families' descriptions of their experiences reading with their deaf child and their teachers' observations of children's reading at school. Case histories reveal similarities in events influencing families' experiences with reading to their young children such as the timing of early hearing detection and intervention, parents' involvement with early intervention programs, their considerations of language for communication and reading with their deaf child, engaging in different types of literacy and reading activities, and managing their child's interest and involvement with books and print. Although these families reported similar events in their reconstructions of their deaf child's reading histories, one child's trajectory to becoming a reader is not exactly the same as that of any other child. Descriptions of these children's reading range from picture book reading to sounding out letters and words to beginning reading text independently to reading to learn. The development of case histories led into the development of assertions about families' experiences that may support young deaf children's early reading. These assertions reflect the role of early intervention, individual differences among children, language choices, parental beliefs about language and reading, and different environmental contexts in relation to young deaf children's early reading. The study revealed intricate, complex interrelationships among the different ecologies of the child's life that shaped her/his own reading process-family, school, and the communities (e.g., the Deaf community and the professional community).

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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