One of the overarching goals of the USC Caruso Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery is to improve the lives of all people who are deaf or hard of hearing. With that goal in mind, clinicians at the USC Caruso Family Center for Childhood Communication created an innovative program—Come Read With Me at USC—to improve the reading and writing skills of deaf and hard of hearing children from bilingual households.
Children who are deaf or hard of hearing tend to have poor literacy skills compared to their hearing peers. This gap widens when the deaf child comes from a lower socioeconomic background and has at least one parent who speaks a different language.
USC Caruso Family Center clinicians developed the three-week summer program to improve reading and writing skills by working with the children, their parents and teachers. Teachers take several days of intensive training to enhance instruction skills for such children. Parents participate in weekly seminars on understanding reading and writing skills and the importance of early shared literacy experiences.
The children, ages from 5 to 8, receive daily lessons in shared reading and writing. They discuss texts they are reading and learn about print awareness, which involves understanding the structure of a book, such as identifying title, author and illustrator, and teaching them that sentences are read from left to right.
Children take assessments before and after the program, which have shown that they improve in one or more literacy skills after completing Come Read With Me at USC. They also demonstrate increased enthusiasm and confidence in reading and writing after the program. Many parents report that their youngsters are energized by the program and, after the program, make time at home to read on their own. Parents also said they gained new insights into their ability to help their child improve reading and writing skills. Teachers, too, said they were better equipped to help deaf and hard-of-hearing students in the classroom after the training.
Without effective intervention, most deaf and hard-of-hearing children lag behind their hearing peers in developing strong reading and writing skills and many never catch up. They often graduate from high school with reading and writing skills that are insufficient to meet present job market demands. Come Read With Me at USC helps give deaf and hard-of-hearing children a much brighter future.