Early literacy is an issue of crucial importance to all parents, and the deaf and hard of hearing community faces an even tougher challenge in making sure their students know how to read and communicate.
Arlene Gunderson, outreach director for …
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Arlene Gunderson, outreach director for Gallaudet University, a college for deaf and hard-of-hearing students headquartered in Washington, D.C., spoke to adults about the 15 principles of reading to deaf children during an event held at Belmar Library on Dec. 5.
“We’ve had about 40 parents and 20 children RSVP tonight, which is better than we were hoping for,” said Deborah Dauenheimer, special populations coordinator for Jeffco Public Libraries. “We want a whole breadth of people — not just parents, but teachers and librarians as well.”
Jeffco Libraries alerted the Rocky Mountain Deaf School about the event, and several students and staff members were on hand to participate.
“We want to collaborate with schools and the community,” said Jennifer McLellan, preschool teacher and early childhood education team lead teacher. “The reading strategies for deaf and hard-of-hearing children are very different; we need to encourage early literacy. Just like hearing children, we need to start now to help deaf children.”
Topics covered by Gunderson included how to use sign language to share stories, reading while not knowing all the signs, and keeping American Sign Language and English visible while reading.
“Language development is so important,” said Rocky Mountain Deaf School Principal Amy Novatny. “Reading is very related to language development, so this information is extremely important.”
Novatny said that seeing hearing community members at the event was a great thing for children because it exemplifies the saying that it takes a village to raise a child, and there are people who can support them.
“Everyone has something to offer, and we want to offer more opportunities for students,” she said. “We do as much as we can at the school, but they need help after school as well.”
This is the first event like this that Jeffco Public Libraries has hosted, but Dauenheimer said administrators hope to offer more opportunities for deaf students.
“It is such an area of need, and especially for deaf children who have hearing parents, it’s crucial to learn,” she said. “We want to provide the same service that everyone is getting in Jeffco.”
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