Librarians, Deaf Students and Hearing Students
by Linsey Taylor, Teacher of the Deaf
West-10 Regional Day School Program for the Deaf
"It is commonly believed that the average high school graduate who is deaf reads at the fourth/fifth grade level," (Schirmer, p. 122)
As a teacher and a future librarian the above quote is disturbing. I have pondered the question "As a librarian, how can I improve deaf and hearing students' reading abilities?" The best answer to this question, based on my education, research and experience, is content schema. Content schema is the prior knowledge readers have about any given subject. This includes general world knowledge, particular information and personal experience about a subject. Background knowledge is directly connected to reading comprehension. Many deaf students and under privileged hearing students who are labeled poor comprehenders win this label because they lack the background knowledge that authors, teachers, and librarians assume they possess. Deaf students miss basic, everyday information that hearing students gain using their sense of hearing. For example, hearing people can overhear a conversation taking place next to them. They gather information from this conversation, whether the information is educational (political, mathematical, language structure, etc.) or as mundane as learning the "rules" of communicating. Hearing people benefit from overhearing these conversations. Deaf students do not learn basic information from overhearing, which is why oral and written languages are extremely hard for deaf students. Properties of speech and print are similar (although literacy is not simply speech written down) whereas sign language and print differ entirely. An example of a speech sentence is "What is your name?" To sign that sentence you would sign "Your name what?" (in American Sign Language). Deaf students with good oral-aural skills are often ten times better readers than deaf students who use sign language. This supports the reasons why most deaf graduates do not read above a fourth/fifth grade level and why they do not enjoy reading.
Improving Reading Skills
A librarian can improve reading skills of deaf and hearing students by doing read-alouds. Read-alouds help develop children's story schema, background knowledge and awareness of written language. Read-alouds offer a time for students to ask questions about the story just read. It allows them to relate their personal knowledge with the guidance of the librarian. The librarian can then make note (mental or written) of the books the students relate too. By making note the librarian can assist students in choosing books they will be able to enjoy independently based on their background knowledge. Librarians can also aid in refining reading skills by providing books that have the sign accompanying the written word. Deaf students can try to read the written word first, if they can not decode the word then they can look at the sign to figure out the word. This would also be a fantastic way to encourage hearing students and other teachers in the school to learn sign language. Additionally, librarians can put up a display or a bulletin board during Deaf Awareness Week. The display or bulletin board can be as simply as showing the sign for certain words or as complex as identifying notable deaf people. When deaf students see what the library has to offer them, they will take an interest in the library and the contents in it.
- Brown, Marc. (1980). Finger Rhymes. New York: A Unicorn Book.
A unique combination of rhymes that fingers can be used to add to the fun.
- Carle, Eric. (1993). Today is Monday. New York: Scholastic Inc.
Each day of the week the animals eat a different kind of food.
- De Paola, Tomie. (1978). Pancakes For Breakfast. New York: Scholastic Inc.
Children can make up a new story to go with the pictures every time they read
this book. It has no words.
- Ehlert, Lois. (1989). Eating the Alphabet. California: Voyager Books.
Each letter of the alphabet has many fruits and vegetables that start with that letter.
- Fain, Kathleen. (1993). Handsigns. New York: Scholastic Inc.
Each letter of the alphabet is accompanied with the hand shape for that letter. Each letter also has a fun animal to help remember the hand shape.
- Hill, Eric. (1987). Where's Spot? New York: Gallaudet University Press.
Spot is hiding! Can you help find him?
- Hoban, Tana. (1987). 26 Letters and 99 Cents. New York: Scholastic Inc.
Students can identify letters and numbers.
- Kraus, Robert. (1986). Where Are You Going, Little Mouse? New York: Greenwillow Books.
Mouse runs away because nobody loves him, but he is wrong. Everybody loves him!
- Lillegard, Dee. (1994). Frog's Lunch. New York: Scholastic Inc.
Frog eats a buzzing fly for lunch.
- Martin, Bill and Carle, Eric. (1967). Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you
see? New York: Henry Holt and Company.
Animals and children see many different colored animals and a teacher looking
back at them.
- Pienkowski, Jan. (1998). Pets. California: Intervisual Books, Inc.
Many different animals can be pets.
- Roe, Eileen. (1990). All I Am. New York: Bradbury.
Kids can be anything they want when they grow up.
- Saulnier, Karen Luczak. (1972). "I Want to be a Farmer". Washington, D.C.: Gallaudet College Press.
A young boy wants to be a farmer. The story is told in Signed English.
- Schreiber, Anne. (1994). Boots. New York: Scholastic Inc.
Boots can be worn with anything!
- Simon, Charnan. (1999). Wash Day. Connecticut: The Millbrook Press.
It's wash day! Everything must be washed.
- Williams, Rozanne Lanczak. (1994). Buttons Buttons. California: Creative Teaching Press, Inc.
Children will discover various shapes, colors and objects.
- Arnold, Tedd. (1997). Huggly Gets Dressed. New York: Scholastic Inc.
Huggly has a good time getting dressed.
- Asch, Frank. (1985). Bear Shadow. New York: Scholastic Inc.
Bear tries to get rid of his shadow by climbing up a tree, telling it to go away and many more stunts.
- Bang, Molly. (1983). Ten, Nine, Eight. New York: Scholastic Inc.
Counting objects and body parts with Dad and his daughter is a lot of fun.
- Bianchi, John and Edwards, Frank B. (1991). Melody Mooner Stayed Up All Night. New York: Firefly Books (United States) Inc.
Melody Mooner does not want to go to bed. She wants to stay up all night!
- Burleigh, Robert. (1998). Home Run. New York: Harcourt Brace and Co.
The intriguing story of Babe Ruth is retold for kids.
- Faulkner, Keith. (1996). The Wide-Mouth Frog. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers.
Frog hops around the pond asking other animals what they like to eat.
- Hamilton, Lillian B. (1974). Little Poems for Little People. Washington DC: Kendall Green Publications.
Common children's poems are told in Signed English.
- Maccarone, Grace. (1994). Pizza Party! New York: Scholastic Inc.
It's time for a pizza party, the best kind!
- McGrath, Barbara Barbieri. (1999). The Baseball Counting Book. Massachusetts: Charlesbridge Publishing.
Numbers 1-20 are used to describe different aspects of baseball.
- Parker, John. (1988). I Love Spiders. New York: Scholastic Inc.
Spiders are described using adjectives.
- Peterson, Jeanne Whitehouse. (1977). I Have a Sister, My Sister Is Deaf. New York: Harper Collins Publisher.
A hearing child explains how her deaf sister experiences daily life.
- Saulnier, Karen Luczak. (1975). Oliver in the City. Washington, D.C.: Gallaudet College Press.
Oliver's city life experience is told in Signed English.
- Saulnier, Karen Luczak. (1987). Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Washington, D.C.: Kendall Green Publications.
Saulnier retells Goldilocks and the Three Bears in Signed English.
- Tomkins, Jasper. (1981). The Catalog. California: Green Tiger Press.
Three mountains are lonely. Their purchases keep them company.
- Wilson, Karma. (2002). Bear Snores On. New York: Margaret K. McElderry books.
Bear's friends throw a party in his liar while he is hibernating.
- Wood, Audrey. (1992). Silly Sally. New York: Scholastic Inc.
Silly Sally takes an eventful trip to town.
- Bornstein, Harry and Saulnier, Karen L. (1990). Little Red Riding Hood. Washington, D.C.: Kendall Green Publications.
Little Red Riding Hood is retold in Signed English.
- Brenner, Martha. (1994). Abe Lincoln's Hat. New York: Scholastic Inc.
A kid tells a story of Abe Lincoln's hat.
- Brown, Marc. (1987). Arthur's Baby. Massachusetts: Joy Street Books.
Arthur is getting a new sibling. He is not sure if he is happy or not about this situation.
- Cowley, Joy. (2001). Agapanthus Hum and Major Bark. New York: Philomel Books.
Agapanthus and her family go to the animal shelter to buy a kitty but they bring home a prize-winning puppy instead.
- Crummel, Susan Stevens. (1999). Shoe Town. New York: Green Light Readers.
Everyone wants to live with mouse but she has no room in her shoe. Where will they all live?
- Crummel, Susan Stevens. (2000). Tumbleweed Stew. New York: Green Light Readers.
Jackrabbit and his friends make tumbleweed stew.
- Danziger, Paula. (2001). It's Justin Time, Amber Brown. New York: G.P. Putman's Son.
It's Amber Brown's birthday. She wants a watch so she can tell her best friend Justin when he is late.
- Donnelly, Judy. (1987). The Titanic Lost... And Found. New York: Random House.
The historical story of the Titanic is retold in a kid friendly version.
- Karlin, Nurit. (1996). The Fat Cat Sat on the Mat. New York: Scholastic Inc.
An entertaining story told in rhyme about a fat cat.
- Keats, Ezra Jack. (1964). Whistle for Willie. New York: Puffin Books.
Everybody whistles for Willie!
- Kleinhenz, Sydnie M. (1997). More For Me. New York: Scholastic Inc.
A little boy can never get enough. He always wants more.
- McPhail, David. (1997). The Day the Dog Said, "Cock-a-Doodle-Doo!". New York: Scholastic Inc.
What a crazy day, the day the dog said "Cock-a-Doodle-Doo". Who else talks funny?
- Milton, Joyce. (1985). Dinosaur Days. New York: Random House.
You'll know what it was like in the day of the dinosaurs after reading this story.
- Moore, Clement C. (1994). The Night Before Christmas. Washington, D.C.: Kendall Green Publications.
The familiar story of the Night Before Christmas is retold in Signed English.
- Newby, Robert. (1992). Sleeping Beauty. Washington, D.C.: Kendall Green Publications.
Selected sentences in Sleeping Beauty are retold in American Sign Language.
- Prelutsky, Jack. (1980). Rolling Harvey Down the Hill. New York: Greenwillow Books.
Poetic tales of Harvey and his gang getting into mischief!
- Precuts, Jack. (1984). The New Kid on the Block. New York: Greenwillow Books.
Poetic spins are put on everyday life and make believe things too.
- Prelutsky, Jack. (1990). Something BIG Has Been Here. New York: Greenwillow Books.
A poetic spin is put on everyday life and make-believe things too.
Helen Morrison, personal communication, March 25, 2002.
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Paul, Peter U. and Quigley, Stephen P. (1994). Language and Deafness. California: Singular Publishing Group, Inc.
Schirmer, Barbara R. (1994). Language and Literacy Development in Children Who Are Deaf. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co.
Wiseman, Andy (November 2000). Research on The Accelerated Reader. Retrieved April 8, 2002 from
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