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Interview with the Author

David A. Stewart
Coauthor, Literacy and Your Deaf Child

GUPress: Literacy is such a critical part of a childs education; what can parents learn from this book that will help them help their children?

Dr. Stewart: The book takes a pragmatic approach to helping parents understand the complex issues involved in making sure their deaf children become literate in all aspects of their lives A wealth of literacy experiences can occur in the home environment to foster a child’s reading and writing skills, including E-mail, web surfing, captioning, grocery lists, driving directions, checklists and instructions for chores, notes that acknowledge accomplishments and affections, billing statements, and junk mail. This is a far richer environment for literacy learning than the language arts classroom. We address many issues that influence a child’s development of literacy skills, but, more importantly, we follow up with descriptions of practical activities that parents can do at home and in the community that will help deaf children learn the function of reading and writing in their lives. Many of these activities are fun and will add spice to everyday experiences. They help deaf children see the importance of reading and writing and foster an appreciation of the necessity of using these skills in real-life situations. Without this appreciation, learning to read and write is much more difficult for deaf children.

GUPress: Is it true that deaf children have more difficulty with reading and writing than their hearing peers? If so, what can be done to improve these skills?

Dr. Stewart: To become good readers and writers, all children require proficiency with the English language, a strong command of English vocabulary, a wealth of diverse life experiences, and a desire to put pen to paper and learn from the printed text. This is a daunting task that teachers of the deaf face but it need not be that way. Language will not be mastered through rote learning activities in the classroom. Dr. Clarke and I emphasize the need for parents to explore the use of language with their deaf children by engaging them in meaningful experiences at home and in the community. We ask that parents use everyday experiences to engage their deaf children in reading and writing activities. This is a key to fostering success in deaf childrens reading and writing skills.

GUPress: How did you and coauthor Bryan Clarke come together to write this book?

Dr. Stewart: Dr. Clarke was my mentor, advisor, and teacher when I pursued graduate studies at the University of British Columbia. We have long discussed the lack of resources available for parents despite the importance of parents in the education of their deaf children.   Writing this book was our response to this shortcoming and also our attempt to lay out in practical terms the means and efforts necessary to help deaf children gain the requisite literacy skills for life-long learning.

5:7 Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Classic Poetry

The Restoration of a Civil War Poet

Edited by Judy Yaeger Jones and Jane E. Vallier, Sweet Bells Jangled: Laura Redden Searing, A Deaf Poet Restored features more than 70 poems by Civil War poet Laura Redden Searing. At first writing under the pseudonym Howard Glyndon, this young deaf poet exploded onto the public scene with her patriotic poems. But her poetry was more than that, exploring every aspect of life during her time.

Coeditor Jane E. Vallier sheds light on the title poem by stating: “Reddens epic poem, Sweet Bells Jangled, was published in her second volume of poetry, Sounds from Secret Chambers (Boston: J. R. Osgood, 1873). Why should we call Sweet Bells Jangled an epic rather than just a loosely structured narrative? First, all of consciousness in the poem is situated in the unnamed narrator, an everywoman who struggles against all the obstacles life can bring her: love and death, untreatable illness, alienation and loneliness, fears and horrors beyond description, and a general critique of the culture. The poem tells the story of a journey that allows the traveler to bring home tales of conquest and defeat that lead her to a changed definition of self. The “civil war between the lovers mirrors the American tragedy Redden had confronted in the earliest days of her writing career. The flawed heroine must confront herself and her culture, redefine herself as a hero, and carry her gift of poetry back to her homeland. Having overcome great odds, she now has a separate self and, unquestionably, a poetic voice.

Coeditor Judy Yaeger Jones sums up the value of this assembled work declaring it a wealth of materials to excite scholars for decades to come.Read an excerpt from this “epic poem and order Sweet Bells Jangled, the fourth volume in the Gallaudet Classics in Deaf Studies series, at a 20% discount off the regular price.

Orchid of the Bayou: A Deaf Woman Faces Blindness, Catherine (Kitty) Hoffpauir Fischer’s story written by her and Cathryn Carroll, author of Laurent Clerc: The Story of His Early Years, is recognized by Louisiana History in a recent issue. “Her story is extraordinary: on the one hand for the hardship she endured at many different levels, including poverty and limited opportunities; on the other hand, for her ability to take it in stride.” The reviewer goes on to say, “I enjoyed reading Orchid of the Bayou and learned a great deal from it. This book is more than an account of a deaf person growing up in Acadiana. It depicts the unmistakable characteristics of Cajun culture and deaf culture, as well as touching on many of the historical and political events that molded life in the South in the middle of the twentieth century. Additionally, it was written in an easy-to-read and enticing style that gripped my attention. I highly recommend it.”

Kitty Fischer was born deaf, and during her college years at Gallaudet University, she learned that she had Usher syndrome, a genetic condition that causes both deafness and blindness. Undaunted, Kitty turned the discovery into an opportunity to explore her Cajun roots and the diverse life she has led since she left her home on the shores of a Louisiana bayou. Read the complete review and excerpt from chapter nineteen, “Yes, I have Usher Syndrome” to learn more about how Kitty dealt with the challenges in her life, and order Orchid of the Bayou.


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