An Alternative Approach to Early Literacy: The Effects of ASL in Educational Media on Literacy Skills Acquisition for Hearing Children

Abstract

Early childhood educators need access to research-based practices and materials to help all children learn to read. Some theorists have suggested that individuals learn to read through “dual coding” (i.e., a verbal code and a nonverbal code) and may benefit from more than one route to literacy (e.g., dual coding theory). Although deaf children can successfully learn to read through American Sign Language (ASL) without sound, few have examined the contributions of sign language as a potential mode, within the verbal code, for hearing children. The purpose of the current investigation was to examine the effects of an educational video that utilizes ASL, in addition to other verbal and nonverbal content, on hearing preschoolers’ early ASL and literacy skills. Participants (N = 77) were randomly assigned to one of three groups: some viewed the video in ASL with sound; some viewed in ASL and without sound; and others did not view the video. Targeted ASL and early literacy skills were assessed before and after viewing. Statistical analyses determined whether scores changed from pretest to posttest, and results showed significant gains for children who viewed a combination of sound and ASL. Although gains were not found on the standardized measure of print and word awareness skills, the results suggest that young hearing children learned the content and skills that were explicitly taught in a video that utilized ASL, fingerspelling and print along with sound. Such results suggest that a visual language, ASL, may serve as an alternative route to literacy development.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    In the present article, we use deaf to refer to anyone with hearing loss (including people who are hard of hearing) and Deaf to refer to someone who is considered to be part of the Deaf community.

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Correspondence to Annie M. Moses.

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Moses, A.M., Golos, D.B. & Bennett, C.M. An Alternative Approach to Early Literacy: The Effects of ASL in Educational Media on Literacy Skills Acquisition for Hearing Children. Early Childhood Educ J 43, 485–494 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10643-015-0690-9

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Keywords

  • American Sign Language
  • Dual coding
  • Early literacy
  • Educational media