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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Understanding the motivation of deaf adolescent Latino struggling readers

  • Author(s): Herzig, Melissa Pia
  • et al.

Our methods for educating Deaf adolescent Latino struggling readers need to change in order to maximize their learning. As with all students, this begins with identifying student strengths and building on these strengths to help students gain new and productive skills. We need to find out what motivates these Latino Deaf readers and what will engage them in reading. Understanding Deaf students' socio-cultural backgrounds and environments, interests, needs, and values through ethnographic research would enable such tailoring and could guide teachers and specialists in redesigning instruction for these students. The main research question guiding this study is: What can we learn about motivation to read from Deaf Latino adolescents who are struggling readers? There are four sub-questions guiding this study : 1) what are the students' backgrounds and language experiences and how do these affect their attitude towards self, community, and the target language?; 2) what are the students' self-concepts about their reading ability?; 3) what are their values with regard to reading?; and 4) what are the students' experiences, attitudes, and motivations about readers and reading? To answer these questions, I interviewed four participants who met five criteria. They are currently in grades 9 to 12, use ASL and are classified as Deaf in their Individual Education Plan (IEP), attended elementary school for two or more years in the US educational system, scored basic or below basic on the English proficiency exam of the California Standard Test, and their IQ scores are normal. This study informs us that unlike Deaf Anglo students, Deaf Latino students bring with them a pride of heritage, a positive attitude toward multiple languages, and an adaptable spirit that allows them to shift their language use according to their needs and context. Also, they are like Deaf Anglo students in their frustrations and in their narrow definition of reading as a school activity. Teachers can learn a great deal about students' perspectives on reading by simply asking them about reading. Their responses will add valuable knowledge to the research base as well as to teachers' practical knowledge.

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