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Authors:  Donna A. Morere
The problem of delays and deficits in reading skill development in deaf and hard of hearing (D/HOH) children is an ongoing concern in the field of deafness as well as in education. Historically, most D/HOH individuals have had difficulty developing adequate language and reading skills. Despite attempts to improve reading achievement in this population there has been little change in the outcomes over at least the past half century (Furth, 1966; Conrad, 1970; Quigley and Kretschmer, 1982; Moores, 2001; Allen, 1990; Karchmer and Mitchell, 2003; Moores, 2009; Robertson, 2009). The average reading achievement for D/HOH children as indicated by the Gallaudet Research Institute‘s Center for Assessment and Demographic Studies remains low. The 1990 SAT-8 Reading Comprehension data for 18 year olds indicated that the average reading level of the profoundly deaf students yielded a grade equivalent of 3.8 and even those with a less than severe (e.g., mild to moderate) hearing loss averaged a grade equivalent of 5.4. (Holt, 1993). The relationship between degree of hearing loss and reading achievement has also been observed in a large longitudinal study of academic achievement of D/HOH children in mainstream school settings, with better outcomes for students with less severe hearing loss (Anita, Jones, Reed and Kreimeyer, 2009). When all levels of hearing loss were combined, the average reading level in that sample was at approximately the 4.5 grade level. The slightly higher numbers than the SAT data may be due to the fact that more than half of the students had unilateral or mild to moderate hearing loss. Despite intensive work to improve reading outcomes for D/HOH students, the 1997 Stanford 9 data indicate that the median reading comprehension of D/HOH 18 year olds remains at the third to fourth grade level. (Traxler, 2000). Allen (1996) found that only 40% of college age students with severe to profound hearing losses read at or above the fourth grade level, while about eight percent read at or above the eighth grade level. Despite these low levels of general achievement, some deaf children become fluent, and even quite advanced, readers. This indicates that deafness alone does not preclude the development of reading skills. Deaf children can learn to read if only we develop appropriate means of teaching them. 

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