Healthier Lives Book Group helps deaf people get the reading habit
Anne Welsh from the Educational Guidance Service for Adults (EGSA) tells us about their Healthier Lives Book Group in Belfast:
For many deaf sign language users, English is a second language. As the structure of English is different to sign language, some deaf people can find reading challenging.
The book group, which was set up in September 2011 in Belfast, is offered as part of the Big Lottery funded Healthier Lives for Deaf and Hard of Hearing People Project, led by Action on Hearing Loss and EGSA.
The book club is led by Roisin McGonagle; Guidance Adviser for the project, and currently has ten members. Roisin decided to start the book group to support deaf people who are not confident readers and who would like to develop their literacy skills. She was surprised at how much interest and enthusiasm people had at the prospect of joining a book group, particularly from those already studying essential skills.
The group decided to start by tackling Quick Reads and chose My Dad's a Policeman by Cathy Glass. Each page is displayed on a projector screen, while group leader Adam, who is deaf, signs the story. Harry: "Adam makes the story feel like a drama." The group is also encouraged to discuss any words they find challenging. These words are written onto a flip chart and Adam explains the meaning of each word in sign language.
Roisin says: "The book group is a unique opportunity for deaf people to feel more confident about reading. To have a deaf person translate written words into sign language is brilliant as it breaks down communication barriers. It has really helped the essential skills students and encouraged others to join a literacy class. It is also a fun social occasion and a good opportunity for members to meet other deaf people."
Group member Yvonne thinks that the book group "is a great opportunity and it helps to build my confidence" and Julie adds "It's the first time we have been at anything like this. We see words we don't understand and we can ask questions... It's fantastic!"
Genevieve Clarke who runs The Six Book Challenge for The Reading Agency, recently visited the group in Northern Ireland. Genevieve was very impressed by their enthusiasm and by the innovative ways used to get the most out of their reading experience. She commented; "It's fabulous to see the Quick Reads being used in this way by a group of deaf readers. We hope that others can pick up on the idea."
Find out more information about the Healthier Lives Project.
The Healthier Lives book group recommends:
My Dad's a Policeman by Cathy Glass
Julie says about the book: "I have recommended the book to my friends. I think it is interesting."