Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Middle-Secondary Education and Instructional Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Joyce E. Many - Chair

Second Advisor

Dr. Ramona W. Matthews

Third Advisor

Dr. Susan R. Easterbrooks

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Lori N. Elliott


In the field of deaf education, a long-standing and still unanswered question is why are the reading levels and academic achievement levels of deaf and hard of hearing children inferior to their hearing peers. Teachers and parents continue to look for reasons to explain the gap and strategies they can use to narrow this gap between the reading achievement of children who are deaf and children who hear. For all children, literacy learning begins at birth. During the early years, children listen to and learn from the language their parents speak to them. The children are affected by the family interactions and experiences of daily life both inside and outside the family. Examination of literacy interactions of deaf children and their parents may provide answers to help us understand the literacy achievement gap deaf children experience. For this research dissertation, my focus was on: (a) How does the communication method of the deaf child affect language learning?; (b) How can the parent-child literacy interactions of deaf children be described?, and (c) How can preschool-age deaf children’s emergent literacy behaviors be described? This naturalistic study looked at the early literacy interactions of preschool deaf children of hearing parents. From an initial group of ten families, three families from an early intervention program were selected. The researcher identified the literacy histories of the deaf children, described the parent-child literacy interactions, and explored emergent literacy behaviors occurring in the home. Data sources included parent questionnaires, parent interviews, literacy logs, and observations of parent-child literacy interactions, including storybook reading. Findings reveal that overall family support, the definitive personality of the parents, and the early diagnosis and amplification of the deaf child defined the difference between the deaf child that excelled as an emergent reader and those who did not. Family support assisted in making each child a successful emergent reader. Parents who made an early decision and commitment to a communication mode, whether manual or oral, allowed their child to progress in areas beyond simple vocabulary. Lastly, the early diagnosis of deafness and early amplification aided the deaf child in emergent literacy achievements.


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