April 18 – Lecture by Dr. Gabrielle Jones!

LLCN welcomes Dr. Gabrielle Jones, Assistant Professor in Department of Education Studies at UCSD, as our next LLCN Lecture speaker on Monday, April 18th at noon in our lab. Lecture will be in ASL without interpretation.

Gabrielle Jones Gabrielle Jones, PhD
Assistant Professor
Education Studies
University of California in San Diego

“Learning to read Chinese from a Deaf lens”

Longstanding beliefs about how children read accentuate the importance of phonological processing in mapping letters to sound. However, when one considers the nature of the script being read, the process can be far more complicated, particularly in the case of an alphabetic script like English (Share, 2008). Cross-cultural reading research reveals alternative modes of processing text that is not entirely phonological. Chinese is known for its non-alphabetic script and its greater reliance upon morphological processing (Anderson & Kuo, 2006), visual skills (Ho & Bryant, 1997; Huang & Hanley, 1994; McBride-Chang & Zhong, 2003), and radical awareness- all argued to be essential skills in deciphering the character-based script. Learning to read in China raises some intriguing questions particularly with the exposure of two different types of scripts (Pinyin- alphabetic and characters non-alphabetic). Chinese young children learn Pinyin, an alphabetic script, in the early years of elementary school as a way to standardize the spoken language then are transitioned out of this writing system to the more commonly used Simplified character reading (Shu & Anderson, 2003).

Given these pedagogical traditions, how do deaf children learn to read Chinese given their limited exposure to the spoken language and their varying exposure to Chinese Sign Language?  What are the implications of teaching alphabetic and non-alphabetic scripts on the learning to read process for deaf children?  Does the visual and semantic structure of Chinese better facilitate reading than a sound-based system like Pinyin or English? Furthermore, we must consider the relationship between the languages in the child’s environment (e.g., a tonal spoken language and a signed language) and the varying scripts (alphabetic and non-alphabetic Chinese).

This qualitative study investigates past and present experiences of Deaf teachers related to the process of learning to read. In childhood, how were they introduced to the scripts and languages?  In their current classrooms, what pedagogical practices do they use in teaching deaf children to read? Qualitative data were collected through teacher interviews and classroom observations.  The data analysis approach relies upon principles incorporated from Grounded Theory (Bryant & Charmaz, 2007) and reveals the importance of sign language as a visual communicative strategy in teaching reading. The instruction of Pinyin is suggested more as a tool for speech training rather than a prerequisite for learning to read. Engaging in a cross-cultural analysis of deaf children’s reading practices enables researchers and practitioners to better understand the sociocultural and sociolinguistic influences that drive and shape reading instruction. Furthermore, investigating a context where the script is less sound-based allows us to explore just how visual a Deaf reader can be.