I am a college professor working with students who are aspiring teachers of deaf and hard of hearing students at the University of Tulsa, and this year I have launched, with the support of my colleagues and students, a free reading clinic for deaf and hard of hearing students in the Tulsa area. The clinic has been going on for three weeks now and we’ve been having a ball. This isn’t really a plug for this project (even though I am super proud of it and would absolutely plug it at any time), but I wanted to write about our challenges with books and a possible solution.
We have a small library thanks exclusively to the generosity of local and long distance donors. We have some really wonderful high quality literature, but we are struggling to find books that are really accessible for our deaf readers. Some of the students we work with use cochlear implants, some use hearing aids, some use spoken English, and some use American Sign Language. It is a very diverse group! But they all share a difficulty with reading in English. What often happens with these students is that they are given books appropriate for their reading ability but far below their maturity levels. The challenge of finding a book that is motivating, interesting and accessible for a 16-year-old student reading at a first grade level is no easy feat!
I was at a conference for deaf education professionals last week, and I was fortunate to attend a session about the use of graphic novels with deaf and hard of hearing students. We heard from a university professor with a week-long summer camp for deaf students where they read and wrote their own graphic novels and even got tips and lessons from professional graphic novelists. What an amazing idea!
Since the presentation, I have been looking into graphic novels that we might want to add to our tutoring library — and even dreaming of doing a similar summer program someday! In my last post, a few of you pointed me to Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick, a combination graphic novel and traditional print novel, which features a deaf character. I already have some young adult graphic novels that I am a huge fan of: American Born Chinese and The Arrival spring pretty immediately to mind. But what about you, dear readers? What other graphic novels should I add to my donation wish list? Are there others featuring deaf characters? Have you used graphic novels in your classrooms with success?