How to Promote Early Reading Acquisition: First Promote ASL

By Jean F. Andrews

XO Sign Language
XO Sign Language (Photo credit: Wayan Vota)

Reading continues to be one of the major obstacles for deaf adults in obtaining their Constitutional Rights. Reading court and legal documents is next to impossible. Even with a sign language interpreter the concepts are difficult to grasp.

In the ivory tower the debate is whether the reading process is qualitatively similar or qualitatively different than for hearing children. While the jury is still out on this theoretical argument, the reality is that the majority of deaf adults are busy learning two languages throughout their lives.

Learning sign language
Learning sign language (Photo credit: daveynin)

ASL is typically acquired quickly and English – reading and writing – is learned as it is mediated by the visual ASL. This ASL to English process happens too late for many deaf adults. An early ASL /English program is one answer to ensuring early reading acquisition.

Jean F. Andrews is a Reading Specialist and Department Chair of Deaf Studies/Deaf Education at Lamar University.

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