Why don’t Deaf people just learn to read?

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People who are able to hear begin learning how to read at a very young age. For most children, this means starting with the alphabet and attaching sounds to each letter. From there, they begin piecing together the letters to create words, then the words to form sentences. But for Deaf children, learning to read is a different process.

The learning process

Deaf children can’t hear the sounds in a word, so they have to memorize the sequence of letters as a full word, attach the sequence to a concept, then the concept to a picture. For example w-i-n-d spells wind. When we hear this spoken, we know whether it’s the movement of air or what’s being done to a toy. Sound gives meaning, but for a Deaf person, they only see the letter sequence.

Context and contrast are what help give meaning. This is often why reading a sound/text-based language is not considered a natural part of a Deaf person’s native sign language. Also, up to 80 percent of Deaf children worldwide never receive a formal education. They continue to be shunned and thought of as “less than” by their hearing community. Even for Deaf people who can read, a written language is a second language that requires extra effort.

Understanding the Word of God

It is for this reason why video Bibles, in sign language, are so critical for the Deaf communities around the world. When a Deaf person can access the Bible in their native sign language, they can truly understand and connect with the Word of God.

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