I was on my way to work one morning. I stopped at an intersection waiting for the light to turn green. Ahead of me, on the other side of the intersection, was a large school bus facing me. I saw the dark silhouettes of children moving around on the bus. With nothing else to look at, I continued to stare at them. Suddenly, I realized that they were signing. Their hands moved around excitedly producing what looked like signs for “Right, right.” “Ha, Ha.” “Funny.” “No!” In the back of the bus, a pair of hands rose high in the air and threw around more signs participating in the conversations. The black shapes of the signing children against the background of the dusky pink sky was quite beautiful.
I wondered if one of my former students was sitting on that bus as it went past me disappearing in my rear view mirror.
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As I have mentioned before in an earlier post, no one really knows how one should teach children to read, particularly deaf and hard of hearing children. It depends.
Of course once someone learns how to read, there are ways teachers and care givers can support and improve their reading skills. I witnessed this the other day watching a teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing work with a student, one-on-one, on improving his reading fluency skills. It was really nice to watch and I learned a lot.
First, she told the student the title of the short reading passage and asked him what he thinks the story might be about. Then she asked him to read it out loud as she sets up a timer (to time how many words he can read in a minute). She used a lot of positive reinforcement and told him that she knows he will do a great job because he is so smart and a hard worker. He smiled at this. The student read the passage out loud, when the timer went off, she encouraged him to keep reading and stopped him when she felt they were at a stopping point. She told him that he did a great job and asked him about some words he struggled with pronouncing or reading. Then she read the entire passage out loud as he listened and followed along. She ran her finger along the words on the reading passage he was looking at to help him follow along. When she finished reading the story, she asked him a lot of questions about what they just read. They engaged in a discussion about parts of the story. She asked him about what he liked about it. She was able to connect the story to his life or what he experienced. Through these questions, not only were we able to see how much he understood the story but we learned a lot about him. She also encouraged him to ask questions. After they finished their discussion, she asked him to read the story again out loud. She set up the timer again for a minute and asked him to start. He read the story, this time with more confidence and fluidity. His reading fluency doubled in comparison to his first read!
I am so glad I got to see a good example of how one can help a child improve their reading skills. It got me thinking about how much parents or care givers can help their child with their reading at home. It does not take much. Even ten minutes a day of reading with your child could make a big difference. Research shows that reading with your child helps improve reading skills. There are a number of other benefits. Reading with or out loud to your child helps create a bond between you and your child, it encourages communication, and it raises the child’s self esteem. And it is fun.
I encourage parents, care givers, and teachers to take at least ten minutes of their day and try this out.
It does not matter how you communicate with your deaf or hard of hearing child at home. What matters is that you make the effort to interact with your child at home as much as you can. Talk with your child, read with them, and ask them questions at home. Don’t be intimidated by your child’s hearing loss or preferred communication mode.
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