Future Reflections Winter 1994, Vol. 13 No. 1

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FAMILY SUPPORT OF EMERGENT LITERACY PRACTICES FOR CHILDREN WITH VISUAL IMPAIRMENTS
by Chris Craig

I am a doctoral student in the Special Education department at Peabody College of Vanderbilt University, majoring in visual impairment. I strongly believe that research involving families of children with disabilities should center on the needs of the family, rather than the needs of the researcher. Thus, I deeply appreciate the cooperation of the NFB on some research which I hope will benefit children with visual impairments and their families.

The professional literature has discussed how reading aloud to children is the most important way to foster literacy development. Selecting stories with repetitive passages, using tactual books and material which adequately represents visual concepts, and promoting Braille awareness through exposure to the medium in a variety of contexts have all been identified as ways to enhance the shared reading experience for parents and their children who are blind. In general, the literature has emphasized the importance of family involvement in the literacy development of young children with visual impairments. Unfortunately, there is very little research on how children with visual impairments "emerge" into literacy or how home literacy experiences impact on learning to read and write in either print or Braille. Thus, my doctoral dissertation will examine the nature of family support of emergent literacy practices in the homes of children with visual impairments.

Fifteen families attending a week-long preschool evaluation program at the Tennessee School for the Blind assisted in the development of a survey instrument for the study. The survey measures family support of literacy practices, home literacy opportunities, and parental attitudes toward Braille and low vision devices. Over a three week period, these families reviewed drafts of the survey and made suggestions as to how to improve the instrument. In addition, the research staff at the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) has provided both technical and financial assistance for this research, and I am very grateful for their support as well.

During the month of September, 1993, the NFB assisted me in my research by sending out survey packets to over 250 of its members. The study includes primarily families who have a child with a visual impairment ages two to eight and who believe that their child has the ability to learn to read and write in either print or Braille at some level. Families who received the packets were asked to fill out the survey and return it using the self-addressed stamped envelope enclosed in each packet.

I am very excited about beginning my dissertation as I believe the outcome of this research will help to increase literacy opportunities for children with visual impairments. I hope to be able to share with you the preliminary findings of this study sometime in 1994 through the Braille Monitor or Future Reflections.

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