“How do I read with my baby if they are deaf or hard of hearing?”
“How do I encourage my deaf or hard of hearing child to be interested in books?”
“How can I share stories with my deaf or hard of hearing child the way I can with my hearing child?”
These are common questions for families and the answers can be hard to find. Reading with a child contributes to increased vocabulary, language development, and print awareness. It also benefits child-caregiver relationships and leads to improved literacy skills. It is important to get an early start on reading with deaf or hard of hearing children and to encourage literacy skills from a young age.
What does it look like to read with a deaf of hard of hearing child?
The key is repetition.
The first time you read a book, focus on what is happening. Identify and label parts of the illustrations, explain what is happening on the page, and clearly state character motivations. Don’t worry about reading the text word for word.
The goal is to communicate the story and to teach any vocabulary or content that may be unfamiliar. Next time, add in more of the text. Point out repeated words or phrases and add in dialogue. As you read the story more, the reading gets closer to the text on the page until you are sharing the story in a more traditional sense.
Kids love to read the same book a thousand times; use that to your advantage! Read in a way that ensures understanding while asking questions and relating the text to the child’s personal experiences. As the story becomes familiar, pay more attention to what’s on the page. Use props, role play, funny voices or personified signs, and family involvement to make reading engaging and foster an early love of literacy.
All kids need to see themselves represented in the books they read.
It contributes to their confidence, identity development, and self-esteem. It also shows kids that they are important and that their stories are important, too.
Wondering what to read with your deaf or hard of hearing child this summer?
Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!
- Nita’s Day (2020) by Kathy MacMillan
This adorable board book is a great way to introduce infants and toddlers to American Sign Language. The tabs on the side pull out to show signs that follow along with the story and they’re fun, too! Join Nita and her parents through their daily routine and use the winning combination of interaction and visuals to engage your youngest readers.
- Baby Loves the Five Senses: Hearing (2019) by Ruth Spiro
This board book explores what sound is and how the ears work, while including explanations of hearing aids, cochlear implants, and sign language!
- Duke the Deaf Dog: Sometimes I Like the Quiet (2022) by Kelly Brakenhoff
The Duke the Deaf Dog series of books explores being Deaf through Duke and his family. They use ASL to communicate with each other and the books come with access to signed storytelling and on-page pictures of ASL vocabulary. Sometimes I Like the Quiet discusses listening fatigue.
- Can Bears Ski? (2022) by Raymond Antrobus
Little Bear is confused- why does everyone keep asking them “can bears ski?” It isn’t until they take a trip to the audiologist that they realize that they have really been asking “can you hear me?” This book by a Deaf author shows the process of getting hearing aids in a playful way.
- Emma Every Day: Friendship Goals (2021) by C.L. Reid
Emma Every Day is a series of beginner chapter books about Emma, a Deaf girl with a cochlear implant, and her day-to-day life experiences with friends, family, and herself. The author, C.L. Reid, is DeafBlind and the books do a great job of showcasing Emma’s strengths while including her Deaf identity.
- Joss (2019) by Erin Falligant
Combine a love of dolls with a love of reading. Joss Kendrick was the American Girl Doll of the Year in 2019. She’s all about surfing until her brother dares her to try out fo rthe cheer team. Following the cheer routines is a little tough for Hard of Hearing Joss, but she isn’t backing down from the challenge.
- Hear Me (2022) by Kerry O’Malley Cerra
As Rayne loses her hearing over time, she has to learn to navigate a whole new world. As her parents push for her to get a cochlear implant, she must face her own assumptions and find her footing.
- Secrets of Camp Whatever (2021) by Chris Grine
Willow, a Deaf 11-year-old, is not so excited about moving to a new town. She’s especially not excited about going to the creepy summer camp there. But then supernatural elements and mysterious creatures start appearing, she and some new friends will have to be brave to get to the bottom of it.
- Mooncakes (2019) by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu
With a background of magic, werewolves, the supernatural, and baking, Tam and Nova must solve mysteries, including the mystery of their feelings for each other. Nova is Hard of Hearing, just like author Suzanne Walker, who used her experience to inform her characterization of Nova.
- Haben (2020) by Haben Girm
Meet Haben in this epic autobiography. Law school is tough enough on its own..add in Harvard, being a woman of color and DeafBlind, and Haben certainly had a lot of work ahead of her. Read how she broke down barriers and triumphed.