The role of language and decoding skills in early literacy development of deaf and hard-of-hearing children

The role of language and decoding skills in early literacy development of deaf and hard-of-hearing children

First Author: Amy Lederberg -- Georgia State University
Additional authors/chairs: 
Brenda Schick; Mi-Young Webb; Carol Connor; Susan R. Easterbrooks; Shirin Antia; Poorna Kushalnagar
Keywords: Deaf/Hard of Hearing, Word reading, Bilingualism, Decoding, Phonological awareness
Abstract / Summary: 

Purpose

Using the Simple View of Reading as a framework, the paper examines the relative importance of American Sign Language, English, and sublexical decoding abilities for early reading development.

Method

Tests were individually administered to 110 DHH children enrolled in kindergarten through second grade in 13 schools in 4 states in the fall. Tests were administered in the language of the school.

Results

Language and literacy measures were moderately to highly correlated. For children acquiring sign, ASL and English syntax scores were moderately correlated, suggesting many children were bilingual.

Regression analyses indicated that WJ letter-word identification was predicted by spoken phonological awareness (PA), phonological decoding skills (word attack), and expressive vocabulary. For those children who sign, fingerspelling skills was a strong additional predictor, and was stronger than PA and phonological decoding skills. Reading comprehension was exclusively (and strongly) predicted by Letter word ID.

Conclusions
This study suggests that early reading skills relies on abilities to analyze and use sublexical features of words as reflected in their PA, phonological decoding, and fingerspelling skills. Fingerspelling can serve as an alternative and strong pathway to learning to read. Like hearing children, these sublexical processes were more important for early reading than is language. However, it is likely that DHH children’s weak syntax and language comprehension will affect reading comprehension in later grades.