Book sharing the deaf way: An ethnographic study in a bilingual preschool for deaf children
This ethnographic study examined the construction of meaning between Deaf teachers and Deaf preschool children during small-group book sharing using American Sign Language (ASL) within a culturally relevant bilingual educational context. The participants included Deaf teachers who were fluent in ASL and written English and two groups of 3–5 year-old culturally-linguistically diverse Deaf children who varied widely in their development of American Sign Language. Data analysis revealed that these culturally-situated book sharing events were visually accessible, bilingual, interactive, supportive and co-constructive in nature. Microethnographic analysis revealed that the teachers used their teaching skill and what appears to be culturally-derived biliteracy practices to mediate the text and to construct meaning with both the group and with individual children. The biliteracy practices that emerged include (a) making these events visual in nature, (b) translating the text into prosodically rich and redundant child-directed ASL, (c) using and engaging the children in cognitively challenging discourse, (d) providing the kinds of scaffolding many of the children had missed during their first few years of life. Mediation emerged as a complex metacognitive process that required continuous monitoring and moment-to-moment decisions and adjustments by the teachers. The five themes that recurred throughout the data include (a) book sharing as situated within Deaf culture, (b) the complex, multi-layered nature of these bilingual literacy events, (c) book sharing as a context that can contribute to building the linguistic, cognitive and literacy foundation Deaf children need for academic success, (d) the interplay of redundancy and time within these book sharing contexts, and (e) the similarities shared by young Deaf students and culturally-linguistically diverse hearing students during classroom book sharing as well as the challenges unique to Deaf populations. The findings contribute to the growing body of classroom-based evidence that explicates the potential that culturally-situated bilingual ASL-English classroom instruction holds for improving the quality of education for Deaf students. Implications for instruction and future research are discussed.
0282: Multicultural education
0518: Preschool education
0535: Reading instruction
0529: Special education