Centers for Literacy

GSU will lead a $10 million project to improve reading in deaf and hard of hearing children

By Andrea Jones

Researchers in the College of Education have been awarded a $10 million grant to create the National Research and Development Center for Literacy and Deafness (CLAD), the first of its kind aimed at dramatically improving reading for children who are deaf or hard of hearing.

The grant from the National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER) of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education, will have a major impact on literacy, leading to a better understanding of the way deaf or hard of hearing students learn, and the creation of intervention models that can be replicated in schools nationwide.

“Our researchers are uniquely qualified to lead this kind of important national endeavor,” said Provost Risa Palm. “Further, this grant represents another milestone in the trajectory of GSU as a national leader in special education research.”

Historically, many deaf children graduatedwith reading skills insufficient to access many postsecondary opportunities, said professor Amy Lederberg (at left in above photo), a principal investigator.

“The center’s focus is particularly important given that poor literacy outcomes have long characterized the deaf population — despite the fact that most deaf students have normal intellectual potential,” Lederberg said.

The researchers will conduct a five-year interdisciplinary study to determine how deaf or hard of hearing children learn to read, to develop interventions focused on improving reading outcomes of kindergarten to second grade, to engage in research and curriculum development and to provide national leadership activities.

“This research will help create effective, evidence-based interventions that will have far reaching effects,” Lederberg said.

CLAD will also address the diversity among deaf or hard of hearing children. Many who use hearing aids or cochlear implants to acquire spoken language do not easily associate their spoken language with printed English. Others who learn ASL as a first language may have a full rich language to communicate but face a unique set of challenges when associating ASL with printed English.

“The center’s goals are two fold,” Susan Easterbrooks (at right in above photo), co-principal investigator and College of Education professor said. “We want to identify child and instructional factors that affect reading growth and develop individualized interventions tailored for deaf or hard of hearing readers.”

Other researchers involved in the project are Lee Branum-Martin and Paul Alberto from GSU; Shirin Antia, from the University of Arizona; Brenda Schick, from the University of Colorado at Boulder; Carol Connor from Arizona State University; and Poorna Kushalnagar from the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Addressing the Struggle

GSU recently received a separate $10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to establish the Center for the Study of Adult Literacy. Daphne Greenberg, associate professor of educational psychology and special education, will study the underlying issues of adults who struggle to read. Recent statistics show that approximately 43 percent of adults in the U.S. read at basic or below basic levels of literacy, and approximately 44 percent of adults who read below basic levels have incomes below the national poverty threshold.