In the past, literacy education was thought to begin at a developmentally appropriate age in a classroom with teachers. Today, early literacy education is thought to begin at birth in the home with parents and caregivers. Early literacy refers to the foundational abilities (e.g., vocabulary, syntax, concept knowledge) and traditional reading and writing skills (e.g., phonological awareness, letter naming, alphabetic principle) of children from birth until formal literacy instruction begins (National Early Literacy Panel, 2008). Thousands of studies have investigated how the early literacy experiences of hearing children correlate with their language and literacy abilities. However, there is a dearth of similar research with deaf children. Early Literacy Development in Deaf Children brings attention to the research gap, summarizes what is known about early literacy, discusses ways that deaf children’s early literacy development mirrors that of hearing children’s development, and encourages future research in this area.
Mayer and Trezek (2015) posit that “deaf children must follow the same process from language to literacy as their hearing peers if they are eventually to become proficient readers and writers” (p. 165). The authors encourage differentiation of instructional strategies that have proven to be effective with hearing children rather than creating different strategies for deaf children. For example, when teaching deaf children the phonemic awareness task of deletion, educators should ensure that the child is using adequate amplification and add visual supports, such as Visual Phonics, when appropriate. Mayer and Trezek reinforce their theoretical framework with evidence indicating that children must have age-appropriate competence in the face-to-face form of the language that they are expected to learn to read and write.
A strength of this book is that reviewed studies are reported in field-specific jargon, then clarified through a more layperson explanation, often followed by an example. This format will keep various types of readers engaged. One weakness of this book may not be a reflection of the book itself but of the state of research in deaf education. There were limited recommendations of how to provide visual access to spoken language (e.g., Visual Phonics, mouthing, supporting spoken English with a signed form of English, Cued Speech). Several of the recommended strategies have no intervention research to support their use. More research needs to be conducted in this area: a fact not ignored by the authors.
Mayer and Trezek (2015) covered early reading, early writing, bilingualism and early literacy, as well as early literacy assessment. Each chapter concluded with implications for practice and future directions for research. Although, the authors stated clearly that this book is not a “how to” guide to early literacy instruction for “deaf children” (Mayer & Trezek, 2015, p. xii), current practitioners, preservice teachers, or researchers could understand and utilize the information presented. This book should be on the shelves of anyone who is interested in deaf children’s literacy development and skill acquisition.