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  • USC Program Helps Develop Literacy for Deaf Children from Bilingual Homes
    29 Apr , 2016









    “Come read with me.” Those can be some of the most powerful words in the development of any child’s ability to read and write, and for children who are deaf or hard-of-hearing and living in bilingual homes, the “come read with me” invitation becomes even more crucial to their literacy development.


    For this reason, the USC Caruso Family Center for Childhood Communication at Keck Medicine of USC has taken a creative approach to tackling challenges that children with hearing loss face in learning to listen, speak, read, and write. USC researchers and staff have developed an innovative program, called “Come Read with Me,” which is an intensive three-week summer intervention and grant-funded research project designed to help develop early literacy skills in oral deaf and hard-of-hearing children from bilingual (Spanish-English) homes.


    Through the program, USC seeks to support everyone involved in a child’s education – the children, their parents, and teachers of the deaf and hard-of-hearing in the greater Los Angeles area.


    The program is the creation of a trans-disciplinary team of experts: educational specialist Debra K. Schrader, audiologist Karen C. Johnson, speech-language pathologist Dianne Hammes Ganguly, and research methodologist Laurel M. Fisher. From 2013 to present, Come Read with Me has served 43 children from ages 4.5 to 8 years, 41 parents and caregivers from homes in which Spanish is spoken by at least one parent, and 16 full-time teachers and language specialists in special education programs and private practice. The program primarily serves families and educators in Los Angeles and the surrounding areas.


    Audiologist Karen C. Johnson, PhD, who is principal investigator of the research project and an associate professor of clinical otolaryngology at the Keck School of Medicine, reports that early results of the program are promising, with many of the participating children becoming active readers and writers. During the summer session, children receive daily lessons in shared reading, dialogic reading, writing and awareness of the sounds of speech. They learn concepts of print and word knowledge developed through interactions with peers, parents, and teachers.


    “After a three-week session, children demonstrate increased conversational turn-taking during reading activities and more purposeful interaction during writing activities, which is very rewarding for all of us on the program team,” said Educational Specialist Debra K. Schrader.


    Parents of children involved in the program report that their kids are more engaged in both reading and writing at home as well. This is likely due, in part, to the 12 hours of group instruction that parents receive on how to develop their children’s reading and writing in their home setting. With the knowledge they gain through the program, parents start viewing themselves as change agents who can actively help their children gain literacy skills. They share their new strategies with other parents, and many families have returned for another summer in the program.


    “Parents are hungry for information and knowledge, and their enthusiasm is inspiring,” commented Johnson. “One mother told us that she now understands that books are where her daughter will gain wisdom.” Johnson also noted that children in the program are using their new literacy skills to read and write with their siblings.


    Teachers involved in the “Come Read with Me” program report feeling more equipped to help deaf and hard-of-hearing students in the classroom. They receive five days of professional development designed to give them new strategies in teaching phonological awareness, shared reading, and writing. They also benefit from daily coaching and mentoring during the summer program.


    “Teachers are taking this experience to the classroom and to their peers,” said Schrader. “Participants have started sharing their new knowledge with other teachers through professional development at their schools. This is such an effective way to support greater language and literacy acquisition.”


    “Come Read with Me is having a ripple effect,” said Speech-Language Pathologist Dianne Hammes Ganguly, MA, CCC-SLP. “Children are more engaged in reading and writing activities. Parents are learning new ways to help their children become better readers and writers. And teachers are gaining additional skills in helping parents and children during this learning process. Supporting all three groups is critical to child success.”


    Johnson told us that John Niparko, MD, who chaired the USC Tina and Rick Caruso Department of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, was a champion of the program from the very beginning. “The program has succeeded beyond imagination, with families participating and networking to make this a sustained community effort with immense educational benefits throughout greater Los Angeles,” Dr Niparko told the “Come Read with Me” team just two weeks ago.


    The “Come Read with Me” literacy program is supported by MED-EL Corporation through a research grant. Teachers and families in the Los Angeles area who are interested in learning more about the program can contact Debra.Schrader@med.usc.edu.


    Source: USC Caruso Family Center for Childhood Communication; Keck Medicine of USC

    Image credit: USC (Shown, Deaf and hard-of-hearing children enrolled in the “Come Read with Me” literacy program developed by USC.)