“Ten Books A Day Keep the Doctor Away”
Lea Donovan Watson, MS, CCC Certified Auditory-Verbal Therapist
Parents need to be aware of outcome studies for literacy skills as well as communication when choosing the educational approach for their children who are deaf and hard of hearing. The development of auditory-verbal skills for communication and reading is more important than ever. Advances in technology offer more options for communicating, but their effective use depends on how well one can read.
Digital hearing aids and cochlear implants make hearing more accessible. Parents who choose an oral approach can expect an easier time helping their children develop spoken language than parents of twenty years ago. Children who receive appropriate technology and auditory-verbal therapy hear better at earlier ages so parents can also expect better communication and reading abilities.
Previous research found spoken language out of reach for most children with profound hearing loss and reported only a fourth grade reading level for the majority of people who are deaf and hard of hearing. Research demonstrates that technology is helping to change that. Spencer, et al (1997 ) found that children with pre-lingual, profound deafness who use cochlear implants develop higher reading levels compared with children who do not use cochlear implants. The authors speculated that use of a cochlear implant may have a positive effect on phonetic coding as it relates to the reading process. Wray, et al (1998) found that children listening with hearing aids and/or FM systems who learned spoken communication through the Auditory-Verbal Approach read at or above grade level.
Reading to a baby is important for speech, language, and listening development and also for reading. At the Auditory-Verbal Communication Center (AVCC), parents are encouraged to read with their children right away.
Children can begin the process of learning to read as infants. To develop a foundation in literacy development, the child needs to develop an awareness that words are made up of sounds. This process starts when parents read to their babies.
The more exposure the child has to books and reading, the easier the process of learning to read will be. Audiologist, Dr. Carol Flexer, PhD states; “Children learn to read by being read to – Read! Reading is auditory! Read ten books a day!” Parents at AVCC are expected to read ten books a day starting when their children are infants. Reading books that are a little above the language level of the child is important so the child is hearing the more advanced language structure. Highlighting the prepositions helps children hear the wide range of use prepositions have. This helps them understand the more abstract levels of thinking and language.
As Dr. Flexer noted,reading is primarily an auditory skill. Dr. Frank Musiak, M.D. at Dartmouth Medical School states that the same part of the brain is active when the child is reading as when the child is listening. All the fun auditory-verbal therapy games help develop reading as well as listening.
By the time the child starts kindergarten, a vocabulary of at least 5,000 words is expected. Reading ten books a day helps build that vocabulary so the child can understand a wider range of concepts. Imagination is triggered for the child and the adult as they read together. Interactive language experiences help expand the understanding of vocabulary.
Dr. Flexer makes it clear that reading aloud to your child is important at every stage. Parents are encouraged to read aloud with their children all through elementary school, middle school and even high school. Reading aloud books that are above the child’s instructional level is recommended.
Most people take speaking and listening for granted, but not parents of children who are deaf and hard of hearing. Parents at AVCC realize their children need auditory skills not only for talking, but also in order to have better access to reading. Electrically transmitted talk depends on literacy skills. Captioned TV programming, e-mail, and computer tools are more useful for people who can read well. Listening and talking gives children better access to reading.
Reading is critical as our society is dependent on and driven by information. Just as Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone changed the art of letter writing and the importance of face-to- face conversation when the 19th century ended, computers and ‘technological talking’ are transforming communication again. Being able to read well is critical to being included in our “information society” for the 21rst century. Parents who are aware of this read ten books a day to their children.
AVCC parents, Kerry Dowling and Dan Wilson read at least ten books a day to their daughter, Hadley. Already at age 2, the positive effect of daily reading is evident in Hadley’s advanced language abilities. I encouraged Hadley’s mother to write the article "13 Creative Ways to Read To Your Child" because she makes reading alive and fun in so many ways. Reading is a priority in their life and in our weekly auditory-verbal sessions. I love to see what books Hadley packed in her bag to show me. Sharing books in this way is exciting.
Locke, L.J. (1998). Where did all the gossip go? Casual conversation in the information age. ASHA The Magazine of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, (summer), 26-31.
Spencer, L., Tromblin, J.B., & Gantz, B.J., (1997). Reading skills in children with multichannel cochlear implant experience. The Volta Review, Volume 99 (4), 193-202.
Wray, D., Flexer, C., & Vanessa, V., (1998). Classroom performance of children who are deaf or hard of hearing and who learned spoken language through the auditory-verbal approach; an evaluation of treatment efficacy. The Volta Review, Volume 99 (2), 107-119.
Robertson, L., Literacy Learning for Children Who Are Deaf or hard of Hearing. Washington, AGBell Assoc. (2000)
“Hearing: The Essence of Literacy”; A Short Course; A.G.Bell Assoc. for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Convention; July 2, 2002; Flexer C., Wray D., Robertson, L.