SignWriting List Archive 1
October 1997 - May 1998

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April 24, 1998

SUBJECT: SW Literacy Development

Date: Mon, 20 Apr 1998 13:10:58 -0700
From: Ruth Kartchner <>
Subject: Literacy Development

Dear Valerie,
I know I have not communicated with you for a while, but I have been busy trying to finish my dissertation. I want to make a couple of points about literacy development.

SignWriting is all over the world now, and I noticed that some teachers are having a little difficulty teaching SignWriting to young children. I wonder if this has something to do with the educational systems in the different countries. Having grown up in Chile, I know that whole language was out of the question, for instance. The methods used even today tend to be a little painful for the children. Consider these points (which I took right out of my dissertation) and see if you think they are valuable in teaching SignWriting.

Let us review the kinds of activities and interactions that help hearing children develop literacy skills:

* Literacy develops in direct proportion to the type and amount of immersion. In other words, the printed word has to be made available to the child. Adults and other children need to be available to interact with the child. Interaction requires the use of language. In this way, language development becomes crucial.

* It is important to repeat information in several ways, several different times. Information can come from peers and adults.

* Children need to bounce ideas on each other and adults.

* Children need time for their newly acquired knowledge to "simmer and brew". They need to revisit new concepts until they make sense to them, they can attach labels to them and connect them to the print.

* Adults need to pose questions and monitor the process of literacy acquisition.

* Through these activities children will begin to "understand the significance of written language; the oral labels used when referring to written language; the purposes written language serves for people of different socio-economic status; and the variety of forms used to construct the meanings communicated through written language".


I think what was missing in Latin America was the fact that literacy acquisition is a PROCESS. It takes time to develop and polish. One other thing, I want to write a little of the history of SignWriting in my dissertation. Can I reproduce your comments after the conference which you shared through the listserve?


Ruth Kartchner
University of Arizona
558 10th st.
Douglas, AZ 85607

PS. I remember back in 1987 how I felt when I talked to everyone about the deaf needing bilingual education. They were not ready for that either, but now they are, and SignWriting can make a tremendous difference to the type of Bil.Ed. we can offer them.