An investigation of reading without sound : a story about Michael

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Cowan, Shalia Holloway

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This is a case study of the literacy experiences of a deaf adolescent as he read, understood and tried to leaern the content of the state driver’s test in order to obtain his driver’s license. Michael, the subject of this study, is typical of other deaf readers who struggle with reading and writing. He uses sign language to communicate and attends school with other deaf students. During this study, he dealt with difficult and challenging text in the driver’s handbook and state textbook that was frustrating and hard to understand. Strategies were used to help him understand the meaning of driving scenarios and vocabulary. At the end of the study, he took the state driver’s test for an Instruction Permit. This study was guided by case study, in which a single case is investigated at length and in-depth. Case study seeks to understand and pursue issues intrinsic to the case. Data generated in this study included interviews, field notes, videotapes, case history, sample work, e-mails and survey results. Over a tenmonth period, I worked with Michael in 24 sessions, interviewed him and also interviewed his teachers, tutor and mother. Michael and I read together and practiced driving together. When we read, we talked about meaning as well as vocabulary in the text. We used toy cars and roadways. Together, we worked on practice tests in order to prepare for the driver’s test. The data collected were used to explore this deaf youth’s literacy experiences and perspectives when engaged in activities that were personally motivating. My study of Michael’s literacy includes his literacy history and profile, school profile, and my previous and current work with him. I considered his performance and characteristics in light of the fact that he is deaf and does not benefit from sound. I reminded myself to present his voice and story, his personality, concerns and perspective. His message was through the air, silent but meaningful. Implications for Michael and others who struggle with reading and writing were presented as well as final thoughts and reflections.



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