Strategic Focus Areas

SFA 3: Reading and Literacy in Visual Learning

The goal of this SFA is to determine the contribution of variation in sensory and linguistic experience on the development and mastery of reading and literacy. (Lynn McQuarrie, Leader)

Emerging from VL2 Center research as discussed above comes a new view of bilingualism that includes exposure to two languages, one through natural language exposure and one through the printed word. The VL2 Center has studied good readers among these deaf ASL-English print bilinguals. Most remarkably, both neural and behavioral studies lay bare the brain’s potential to develop alternative visual phonological gateways comparable to sound-based phonological representations typical of, for example, a young hearing reader’s use of spoken language phonological representations to access meaning from the printed word.

How children learn to read has tremendous theoretical and educational significance, and the study of early language learning and reading constitutes core scientific threads that bind the whole Center.  Reading is a complex, multifaceted process and Center studies address reading from multiple levels. SFA 3 studies have a strong focus on the relative weight of these multiple factors including the sign-phonological, morphological, syntactic, semantic, and higher cognitive developmental factors that contribute to successful reading, as well as children’s comprehension of reading. Moreover, SFA 1 and 2 focused on experimental studies in the lab and here in SFA 3 we focus on experimental studies in the classroom.

Prior research in studies of how children learn to read have focused greatly on auditory sources of information, such as sound-based phonological awareness in the young reader, and less on understanding the role of visual input. VL2 studies have revealed that spoken language phonological processing skills do not account for much of the variance in reading achievement in deaf students. Instead the quality of first-language knowledge plays a more important role in predicting reading outcomes (Cates, Corina & Traxler, 2013; Mayberry, del Giudice, & Lieberman, 2010).  However, exactly what aspects of the language are most important in predicting later reading remain undiscovered. In Years 8-9, this will be addressed in our SFA 3’s studies.

The studies in this SFA will provide a unique way by which to examine variations in language learning and reading over time, including the role of visual sign phonology (especially fingerspelling), ASL proficiency, visual attention and aspects of higher cognitive Executive Functions, etc. The studies will also provide new insights into which cognitive skills bolster reading in ways that are relevant to all children.

Studies for SFA 3

Study 6
Learning to read with visual languages: Investigation of the impact of visual phonology (L1) training on emergent and developing literacy in L2.(Lynn McQuarrie, PI)
Study 7
Home, school, and early language factors impacting the acquisition of reading skills among deaf children with and without cochlear implants, and with and without early-exposure to sign language. (Thomas Allen, PI)

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