Deaf Children Master Reading
How to Read to the Deaf
Reading to a deaf or hard of hearing person may seem quite odd and perplexing to you. How is a person going to enjoy the fun of a good story if they can't hear your tone of voice? How can they know and understand what the book is about? If you're reading to a deaf or hard of hearing friend, child, or even a classroom of students with a hearing disability, there are still ways for them to enjoy an exciting story. By showing a bit of interest and putting in a bit of effort, a hearing impaired person can still understand and enjoy a story just like any other normal hearing person.
Find a suitable book to read to them.There are near millions of books out there in the world and can be found in many libraries, bookstores, and even online. Choose a book that is age-appropriate for your listener and a book you know they'll enjoy from their passions, interests, hobbies, or favorite type of story such as fairy tales, action plots, romantic stories, horror books, etc.
- Avoid books that wouldn't be suitable for them. For example, reading a kid-themed fairy tale to an adult probably wouldn't be a good idea. Reading a complicated algebra book wouldn't be a smart choice for a five year old child.
Translate the story into sign language.Read the story aloud and then translate the story into sign language using your hands. Make sure that the listener can see you clearly and that your hands are visible in sight. If the book has images or illustrations, lift the book so they're able to see them. Use one hand for signing and the other book for holding onto the book.
- If you need both hands to sign, consider placing the book against any object so the book can hold itself. Another method is having the listener can hold the book and being next to them to read and sign.
- It's unnecessary to mouth the words of the story. Most deaf and hard of hearing adults and teenagers can read lips and follow along as you sign. For a child who has a hearing impairment, mouthing the words will prevent them for learning how to read lips from other people.
- Avoid wearing any excessive jewelry on your hands or arms while you sign as this can be distracting and bothersome to the person when they try to enjoy the story.
- Keep a consistent pace while you read. Don't try to rush through reading or signing. The more important thing is to sign each letter at a consistent rhythm, but not bouncing it, so that the person can easily distinguish a pause. It's better to go slow and steady than to rush and suddenly pause when you can't remember a sign - the reader may misinterpret this as the beginning of a new word.
Keep the book visible for the person to see.Ensure that the book is easy to see so the listener can see the written words, images, illustrations, diagrams, graphs, bullet points, and/or other added information into the book.It may help to have a pointer tool to show important information clearly. This can be useful if you're reading to a class or a group of hearing impaired people, or if you're trying to present information to them.
Elaborate and explain some texts.Just like a hearing person, there will be some parts of a story the person may not understand clearly. Whenever a new action takes place in the story, pause for a minute and try to summarize what's going on in your own words by using sign language. To help know their understanding of the story so far, you can ask questions such as "What do you think of character so far? She seems to be pretty lonely, huh?" You can also have them predict what will happen next in the story by asking and providing reasonable guesses (e.g "What do you think will happen next? Do you think she'll find her dog?"). This can ensure that they understand the story well.
Adjust your signing placement to fit the story.During points of the story, you may want to change your signing placement and sign on the pages or sign on different objects. This can make the story more fitting and can help with certain plots or rising actions in the story.
If necessary, change your reading style.To match with the story, adjust your signing style be being dramatic and exaggerating certain signs and facial expressions. This is usually best for a younger audience, but it can be done when reading action stories or sharing dramatic plots.
Use attention maintenance strategies.For younger people such as teenagers or children, attention is bound to be lost at times and there will be times the listener won't pay attention as you read to them. You can kindly get back their attention by tapping on their shoulder gently or giving them a light nudge.
- It may also help to create a 'secret code' to help get your listener's attention. This can be useful in a large group of people such as a classroom. For example, you might place a toy light on or clap your hands to remind the person to focus on the information you are giving them.
Use eye gaze and eye contact while you read.When reading the story, look at the person every now and then to encourage elicit participation. If there are multiple people listening to the story, shift your gaze every few seconds.
- Break eye contact briefly every 5-15 seconds. Too much eye-contact can be as off-putting as none at all. You may want to look at the book every now and then to avoid over-using eye contact
Act out the story.While you read, you can make the story even more engaging by acting the story. For example, if a fox is running around quickly in a story, you might want to gallop around the room while you read that part. This not only makes it entertaining for an younger audience, but also a whole lot fun for everyone to enjoy.
- Consider reading as much as the person is able to. Over-reading will bore the listener so it's best to break up the story into parts or chapters.
- Talk to the person about the story and try to connect concepts in the story to the real world. For example, you might read a story about a deaf person having trouble communicating, and then ask them questions such as "Have you ever felt like that too? Have you ever found communicating difficult?"
- Avoid reading in a distracting area. This can make it hard for both you and the listener to focus and pay attention to the story.
Video: Deaf Child Early Reading ASL English
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