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MedEd Connections Resource Guide: Deaf and Hard of Hearing (D/HH)


How Do I Read with My Child and Support Their Literacy?

Children who are deaf or hard of hearing (D/HH) can begin learning language, communication, and literacy at the same time. The more children read books with family and friends at home and in school, the stronger their literacy foundation will become. Additionally, providing a good language environment, enunciating words and engaging children in everyday activities and routines, gives children good opportunities for language, literacy, and communication development. Conversational turn taking, eye contact, and other good social skills are learned. Please note that it is important for children who are D/HH to be read to in the language and mode of communication used by the child.

Another component of supporting your child’s literacy skills is to monitor your child’s vision health. Children who are D/HH rely heavily on their vision to read, communicate, and learn. You may want to routinely make an appointment with your child’s ophthalmologist to monitor eye health, or optometrist to ensure your child’s glasses or contacts are of an appropriate prescription for your child’s vision.

A speech language pathologist (SLP), teacher of the deaf (TOD), or a literacy specialist will be able to provide direct reading support. There are online resources that may help you support your child’s literacy at home. Some of these resources include:

  • 15 Principles for Reading with Your Deaf Child

  • Read Aloud
    Read Aloud 15 Minutes is a non-profit organization which is working towards making reading aloud for at least 15 minutes daily the new standard in child care. Read Aloud provides downloadable resources in English and Spanish to support children’s reading at home.

  • Peter’s Picture
    The product was developed for children who are D/HH ages 3-6 to help them learn ASL and written English through ASL.

  • VL2 Story Book App
    This App is for bilingual readers who are D/HH. Exciting and captivating stories in both ASL and English are provided. Children can watch the story in ASL or start reading it in English. At any point throughout the story in English, children can tap the screen to watch that part of the story in ASL. Children can also touch specific English words to see them finger spelled as well as signed in ASL.

In addition to these resources, there are various strategies you can use at home to support your child’s literacy.

  • Make reading a fun routine.
  • Prop the book up on a bookstand or against knees for visual access.
  • Encourage your child to explore pictures for context clues before reading out loud in spoken English or ASL.
  • Highlight key words by pointing them out or finger spelling.
  • Turn on closed captioning on your television, even if your child is not yet reading.
  • Invite your child to help you make grocery list.
  • Check local libraries to see if a reading buddies program is available. They are available in most library systems.

Many families find it helpful to hear directly from other families about how they supported their child’s literacy. Read one family’s story here: “Raising a Reader: One Family’s Story”.

OCALI’s Outreach Center provides a link to the Rocky Mountain Deaf School which has interactive bilingual storybooks, and ASL videos of children’s books for storytelling in ASL.

Visual Phonics
A potential avenue of literacy learning for your child may include visual phonics. Developing skills in phonics can be challenging for children who are D/HH. They may not be able to hear the individual phonemes of speech. At the same time, knowledge and use of phonics can be beneficial for supporting the reading process. With the necessary supports, phonics may be considered one piece of a reading program for children who are D/HH. Visual Phonics is a system of 45 hand signs and written symbols that help make the connection between written and spoken language less confusing. You may want to discuss visual phonics with a teacher of the deaf (TOD), speech language pathologist (SLP), or literacy specialist if you would like to explore whether visual phonics would be beneficial for your child.

Strategies and Tips to Support Literacy
Gallaudet University’s compiled strategies and tips to support literacy for D/HH students in the classroom. Included are strategies for reading out loud in spoken English or ASL, tips for students reading with interpreters, and more.