How do I read to a Deaf child?

Reading storybooks to a child is a great way to build vocabulary. Our everyday conversations are often about the same activities, toys, and environments. Books open the window to the kinds of things we do not see in our backyards, like tigers and spaceships. And as a cherry on the cake, the moments spent reading storybooks foster a child’s love for reading. 

Reading to a Deaf child can seem a stressful affair. The caregiver has their hands full with the book and signing. They also have to interpret written language into sign language on the fly. 

Luckily, scientists have researched the most ergonomic ways to read with a Deaf child!

1. Seat the child so she can easily see the book, your hands, and your face.

2. Hold the book in one hand and sign in the other. Alternatively, you can pose the book on a book stand, maybe a DIY one you made with your child, and sign hands free.

3. Engage the child in the story. You can ask them to find an object in the pictures or to name a character.

4. And soon you’ll have your child signing storybooks back to you!

A comfortable reading environment has been shown to increase reading time between caregivers and children. It also makes reading time more enjoyable! 

Join us next time when we dive into how to build literacy skills while reading to a Deaf child.

The scientific sources for our comic:

Berke, M. (2013). Reading books with young deaf children: Strategies for mediating between American Sign Language and English. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 18(3), 299-311.

Schleper, D. R. (1995). Reading to deaf children: Learning from Deaf adults. Perspectives in Education and Deafness, 13, 4-9.