The goal of the proposed project is to better understand how severely and profoundly deaf readers who use American Sign Language as their main communication mode process written language. Over the past decades, it has been shown that literacy levels in the deaf population have been dramatically lower than in their hearing counterparts. Large scale studies across samples of deaf high-school graduates have rd th shown that the median reading level is around 3 -4 grade and that 5% of the young deaf adults tested were strong readers and read at grade levels matched or superior to their hearing peers (Gallaudet Research Institute, 2004). Research with hearing readers has provided an in-depth picture of the cognitive processes underlying skilled reading (Rayner et al. 2001;review). Research with deaf readers, however, has not yet fully explored how skilled reading occurs. Much of the research conducted with deaf readers has focused on the problems experienced by less skilled readers (Kelly &Barac-Cikoja, 2007). Importantly, few studies have systematically controlled for reading level, comparing skilled to less skilled reading in deaf participants. Skilled deaf readers constitute a small proportion of the deaf population (Kelly &Barac-Cikoja, 2007). Still, it appears crucial to specifically investigate these readers, to compare their behavior to less skilled deaf readers, but also to better known populations such as skilled hearing readers in order to understand which factors lead to skilled reading in the deaf population. A series of studies will be conducted, each designed to address specific questions concerning skilled deaf reading at various levels of processing: perceptual processing of information in parafoveal vision, allocation of attention during reading, phonological and semantic processing at the word-level, neighborhood effects, the use of context to constraint word processing and syntax processing. Eye movement data will be collected during silent reading. Virtually no information is currently available in natural reading situations with eye movements monitored in deaf readers. The present proposal will thus fill a large gap in the literature. Most importantly, this project is of great societal significance in light of the great literacy difficulties experienced by the deaf population in general. This project will contribute to a better understanding of reading processes in the deaf population and to better reading education practices for this population.

Public Health Relevance

In light of the great literacy difficulties generally experienced by deaf people, the proposed project will investigate the reading processes of skilled and less skilled severely to profoundly deaf adult readers and compare these processes to those of skilled hearing readers.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
Small Research Grants (R03)
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Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZDC1-SRB-Y (56))
Program Officer
Cooper, Judith
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University of California San Diego
Schools of Arts and Sciences
La Jolla
United States
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Yan, Ming; Pan, Jinger; Bélanger, Nathalie N et al. (2015) Chinese deaf readers have early access to parafoveal semantics. J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn 41:254-61
Bélanger, Nathalie N; Rayner, Keith (2015) What Eye Movements Reveal about Deaf Readers. Curr Dir Psychol Sci 24:220-226
Belanger, Nathalie N; Mayberry, Rachel I; Rayner, Keith (2013) Orthographic and phonological preview benefits: parafoveal processing in skilled and less-skilled deaf readers. Q J Exp Psychol (Hove) 66:2237-52
Bélanger, Nathalie N; Rayner, Keith (2013) Frequency and Predictability Effects in Eye Fixations for Skilled and Less-Skilled Deaf Readers. Vis cogn 21:477-497