How do I foster literacy skills while reading to a Deaf child?

Reading to a child is a great way to set the foundations for future literacy in a fun way! For example, it can be an opportunity to connect written language with signed or oral language.

When reading to a Deaf child, it is important to connect written language with sign language. This connection can be thought of as a triangle that connects vocabulary (in sign language) with how written words look (in the written language) and with how written words are spelled (in sign language). The three corners of the literacy foundations triangle are the following:

①Vocabulary: Connect signs with meanings. You can make a sign, like ‘dog’, and then point to a picture of the dog in the book.

②Writing: Connect signs with written words. You can make a sign and then point to the written word in the book.

③Spelling: Connect signs with fingerspelling. Fingerspelling involves using signs that represent letters in the written language to spell out a word (link). You can make a sign and then fingerspell it. (spread the sign – put in alphabets).

You can start at any corner and move to the next. Each corner is an equally important part of the literacy foundations triangle! So choose a great book, perhaps one you loved as a child, and settle in for a relaxing, but educational, reading time.

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.