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Paper presented at European Days of Deaf Education
(EDDE, Örebro) May 8 – 11, 2003.

 Title: Young Deaf Children learning about Swedish – Writing and Reading

A Ethnographic study.

Type of work: Doctoral Dissertation, Göteborg University, Sweden

Author: Carin Roos

Research into deaf literacy shows that deaf students have problems reading and writing due to their inability to acquire a first language that they can use when trying to express themselves through writing. The field of research supports two differing opinions concerning the development of reading ability and deafness: one that deaf students learn to read using essentially the same processes as hearing students do; the other that deaf students use qualitatively different processes when learning to read. There are also different opinions about whether to use sign language or not.

There is, however, little research done describing how deaf children show their interest in the written form of the languageand how this interest develops in a bilingual setting, using sign language as the mode of communication. The research efforts reported are centred around themes like word processing, coding and different techniques deaf students use.

This paper will present a study with 6 deaf students that were videotaped in a longitudinal study. The students ranged from age 3 - 6 when the two year long study started, and some of them attended a special school for the deaf before the study ended. The paper will examine the findings in the study focusing on the striking resemblances with what is found in the literature about hearing children learning to read and write. These resemblances regard their interest in Swedish letters and text and how this interest develops. The paper will present what the differences between deaf and hearing look like and discuss what deaf children do at the stage when hearing start to understand that sounds can be letters. The paper will also address the pedagogical implications of the findings. It will be argued that teachers have to be confident in the children’s ability to learn in a bilingual setting and that deaf adults that work within the schools for the deaf are of extreme importance for stimulating the child’s development of reading and writing skills.