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5:4 Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Whats All This Talk About Literacy?

A New Guide for Parents of Deaf or Hard of Hearing Children

According to the National Institute for Literacy, forty-four million Americans age sixteen and older have the lowest literacy skills (level 1) and have significant literacy needs; forty-three percent of people with the lowest literacy skills live in poverty; seventy percent of people with the lowest literacy skills have no full- or part-time job; workers lacking a high school diploma earn $452 per month compared to $1,829 for college graduates; and eight million people (4 percent of the total adult population) were unable to perform even the simplest literacy tasks.

Literacy and Your Deaf Child provides parents with the means to ensure that their deaf or hard of hearing child becomes a proficient reader and writer and develops overall literacy skills that will enable him to function in an increasingly print-oriented world. In chapter one of Literacy and Your Deaf Child, authors David A. Stewart and Bryan R. Clarke define literacy, stating: “For many people, literacy means the ability to communicate, to read and write, to calculate and, with the advent of cyberspace, use a computer. The latter is made evident by the recently invented term computer-literate.”

This new guide begins by introducing some common concepts, among them the importance of parental involvement in a deaf child’s education. It outlines how children acquire language and describes the auditory and visual links to literacy. With this information parents can make informed decisions regarding hearing aids, cochlear implants, speechreading, and sign communication, all of which can have a marked influence on their child’s language development. Read chapter eight, Writing, and order Literacy and Your Deaf Child at a special savings of 20% off the regular price.

Studies in Second Language Acquisition features a ringing endorsement of Clayton Valli and Ceil Lucas’s Linguistics of American Sign Language: An Introduction in its March 2003 issue: “This volume is unrivaled among linguistic works on American Sign Language. Most of the published work on American Sign Language is either in the form of textbooks (of varying quality) or highly technical linguistic research that is often inaccessible to the general reader, even one whose signing skills may be quite good. This work is different in that it provides a solid linguistic foundation for the study of American Sign Language, coupled with an up-to-date analysis of what we know about the structures an operations of American Sign Language. It also provides in a single place an invaluable collection of major articles in the linguistics of American Sign Language.” Read the full review, and order Linguistics of American Sign Language.

Historians, geneticists, and representatives of the disability community gathered at the Gallaudet University Kellogg Conference Center on April 2-4, 2003 to participate in the Genetics, Disability and Deafness International Conference, sponsored by the Gallaudet University Press Institute. Louis Menand, author of the Pulitzer-Prize winning book The Metaphysical Club, kicked off the conference with his presentation “The Science of Human Nature and the Human Nature of Science.” Menand, Distinguished Professor of English at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, appeared through support from the Schaefer Endowment Fund. He was joined in setting the conference’s intellectually stimulating tone by two other keynote speakers, Alan Guttmacher, Deputy Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, who announced that the human mapping project was only 11 days from completion, and Michael Bérubé, Paterno Family Professor of English at the Pennsylvania State University, who explored “Disability, Democracy, and the New Genetics.”

John Schuchman, Professor Emeritus of History at Gallaudet University discussed deafness and eugenics in the Nazi era, and Walter Nance, Professor of Genetics at Virginia Commonwealth University, provided an introduction to genetic studies of deafness during the past 100 years. Other renowned presenters eloquently addressed social accommodation and disability, basic concepts of heredity, deafness in a Bedouin community, informed consent, bioethics and studies of attitudes of deaf adults towards genetics, and genetic. These invigorating presentations spurred sharp debate in the audience, which represented a broad mix of backgrounds and countries. The conference culminated in lively, moving accounts of personal and professional experiences with genetic counseling from a panel of deaf individuals, capped off by an inspiring summary from Irene Leigh, Professor of Psychology at Gallaudet. The Genetics, Disability, and Deafness International Conference explored issues that will be debated by historians, geneticists, ethicists, and disability-rights advocates for as long as the genetics revolution continues to have an impact on hereditary deafness.


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