Raising and Educating a Deaf Child

International experts answer your questions about the choices, controversies, and decisions faced by the parents and educators of deaf and hard-of-hearing children.

Question from L.H., Missouri

I’m considering applying for a grant to establish the Clerc Center’s Shared Reading program as a pilot project in our state, but need to be able to document that it is an “evidenced based” program. Is there strong research to back it as an “evidence based” program and if so, can you direct me to the research articles?

Question from L.H., Missouri. Posted August 25, 2011.
Response from Marc Marschark - NTID

Shared reading is just what the name implies: books as the shared focus of an interaction between an adult, typically a parent or caregiver, and a young child. At the earliest stages, this may consist of simply looking at pictures together and allowing the object of shared attention to be labeled or become the communication topic. For example, looking at a picture of a car, a parent might label it and then ask the child something about “Mommy’s car.” At later stages, stories in the books, as reflected by the pictures, may be “told” without regard for the actual text. Intermittently, or at a later stage, parents may actively lead the child to recognize connections between printed and either spoken or signed words. The initial purpose of such activities is to introduce children to the idea of books and print, and shared reading progresses more smoothly when parents follow the children’s lead regarding the focus of attention and the duration of time spent on the activity.

Hearing parents of deaf children often suggest that their children do not enjoy books, and that they themselves do not know how to create interest and sustain attention in the activity; that can be a challenge. David Schleper therefore developed a shared reading program for deaf children. The idea is that hearing parents of deaf children could learn from the reading strategies of deaf parents reading to their deaf children. Although some studies of deaf children have reported positive results from shared reading activities, these studies have tended to have few participants, qualitative or case-study designs, and/or no comparison groups. Further, the program is based on the belief that deaf children of deaf parents generally have superior reading and academic achievement relative to deaf children of hearing parents. There is little support for that contention; early access to language is the key, not parental hearing status. Whether or not share reading leads to long-term benefits for reading achievement is unclear. It certainly can’t hurt, and it appears likely to have indirect benefits for communication and parent-child bonding. (The program has been around long enough that someone should be doing those studies.)

The above is mostly excerpted from and you can find more information in:  Spencer, P.E. & Marschark, M. (2010). Evidence-based practice in educating deaf and hard-of-hearing students. New York: Oxford University Press.