Deaf children in the United States are not achieving age-appropriate literacy in English. Nearly 90-95% of deaf infants are born to hearing parents who do not know American Sign Language (ASL). These deaf children are experiencing limited access to a spoken language and as a result do not develop skills needed to be prepared for academic learning because language acquisition during the sensitive period in development is crucial for the development of literacy skills. However, 5-10% of deaf children have deaf parents who use ASL. Studies show correlations between higher ASL fluency and higher English literacy scores in deaf children from deaf parents. The current study uses NWEA Measures of Academic Performance (MAP) Literacy data from 778 deaf children attending ASL-English bilingual school in the Southwestern United States to examine pathways by which ASL can boost print English literacy using Vygotsky’s social cultural theory of language and cultural development. Covariates included socio-economic status, age of ASL exposure, and age of entry to school. It was predicted that (1) deaf children from signing parents would show faster growth in their MAP literacy and (2) within families who report signing, those from deaf parents will show faster literacy growth than those from hearing parents. Results from a multi-level modeling analysis showed that deaf children from signing parents had a 2.5-year advantage on their MAP performance at school entry and deaf children from deaf signing families had a 4.5-year advantage on their MAP performance at school entry. Implications for effects of covariates on the growth models are discussed.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Deaf children--Language; Children of deaf parents--Language; Literacy; American Sign Language; Special education--Parent participation; Sign language acquisition

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Experimental Psychology (MS)

Department, Program, or Center

Psychology (CLA)


Matthew Dye

Advisor/Committee Member

Kirsten Condry

Advisor/Committee Member

Stephanie Godleski


RIT – Main Campus

Plan Codes