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American Annals of the Deaf

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Literacy and Your Deaf Child: What Every Parent Should Know

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The teacher’s approach to this writing activity illustrates six key behavioral characteristics that can foster a love of writing and that incorporate principles that relate to the development of good adult–child interactions. Even more important, they can readily be used in the home by parents to create an environment conducive to writing by their deaf children. If implemented consistently, the following characteristics will help boost deaf children’s confidence in their ability to write:

1. Enthusiasm. The teacher showed genuine enthusiasm for all written work, and this provided an extrinsic reward to the students for their writing efforts and encouraged them to take a much greater interest in what they wrote.

2. Acceptance. Everything that was written was accepted. If a student turned in what for him was a below-average performance, then that was accepted without any negative comment. However, if the written work was exceptionally good, then the teacher openly recognized this effort.

3. Self-expression. The teacher always maintained a focus on the goal of the writing activity, which was to have the students engage in self-expression by writing about anything so that they might develop and maintain an interest in writing. Therefore, little or no attention was given to working on specific grammatical or vocabulary tasks during the writing periods.

4. Confidence. The children had no fear of making mistakes. When a child does not have to worry about making mistakes and can concentrate on saying something, writing for him becomes an experiment in which he can try out different strategies for telling a story as well as explore a variety of ways to manipulate words, phrases, and sentences.

5. Routine. Routine plays an important role in children’s learning experiences. The teacher recognized its importance by requiring that his students participate in a free writing activity at regular intervals twice a week throughout the school year. Learning will last longer if it occurs systematically and gives the child frequent opportunities to explore and internalize concepts, acquire automaticity in a skill, and gain an appreciation for what he has learned.

6. Pride. The teacher’s comments during his individual conversations with the students about their writing also aimed at instilling in them a sense of pride in their achievements. He did this by offering praise when it was deserved, and more importantly, by sharing with the students what he had learned from reading the stories. Every child likes to know that he can help someone learn, and writing is an excellent vehicle for this purpose.

For hearing people, writing is an important part of their overall communication skills, but it undoubtedly plays an even more important role in the lives of deaf people because there are so many occasions when it helps bridge the communication gap between deaf and hearing. Deaf adults are usually accustomed to carrying a pen and notepad everywhere they go because it allows them to communicate in situations where signing and speaking are not options.

Thus, parents who make writing an important function in their household are, in effect, exposing their deaf child to the varied functions that writing will have for him throughout his life. See box titled “The Writing Board,” which describes a simple method for creating an atmosphere that encourages writing in the household.

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