- Purchase/rental options available:
This article reports on a correlational study of language and home factors and their role in fostering the development of alphabetic knowledge among a national sample of 3-, 4-, and 5-year-old deaf children. A structural equation model was constructed and tested in an examination of the combined impacts of student age, finger-spelling ability, and receptive American Sign Language ability on the participants’ ability to write, say, or sign letters of the English alphabet. The resulting models explained more than half of the variance in letter-writing ability and revealed significant independent effects of all three variables. Additionally, ASL skill revealed noteworthy indirect effects through its impact on fingerspelling, emphasizing the importance of the combination of signing and fingerspelling as predictors of emergent literacy in young deaf children. A follow-up analysis examined the correlations between age and letter writing, as well as those between ASL skill and letter writing, separately for subgroups (defined by parental hearing status and the use of sign in the home). This analysis revealed strong associations between ASL skill and letter writing in signing deaf and hearing families but not in nonsigning hearing families, raising a concern that deaf children in families with no early exposure to a visual language may be at greater risk for delay in their emerging reading abilities.