Orlando hospital hosts SRP site
What do Orlando-area parents of deaf and hard of hearing children get when they encounter a partnership between the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and the Florida Hands & Voices chapter with help from the City of Orlando's Mayor's Matching Grant Program? The gift of early literacy. Through the Shared Reading Project (SRP), developed at the Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center, parents and other caregivers at the Howard Phillips Center for Children & Families, part of the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, learn strategies for reading books to their children using American Sign Language (ASL).
"The SRP builds family communication skills and encourages children to develop a love for reading," said Tanya Williams, the SRP site coordinator. "Our families report that through the program they see an increase in the attention of their children during reading."
Carolyn Calvo, parent to a 3-year-old son who is hard of hearing, can attest to the increase in her child's attention during reading. "Ever since we started the program we have stayed with story time every night before bed. Once routines are established, your kids expect them so it is easier to keep them going. My son loves reading books now. He has also memorized some of his favorite books!"
The Florida chapter of Hands & Voices, a parent-driven, nonprofit organization that provides unbiased support to families with children who are deaf or hard of hearing, helps recruit families for the program. To date, 25 Orlando-area parents have participated in the SRP that is offered as part of the Hearing Me program Williams established in 2002 at the Howard Phillips Center for Children & Families. "I set up Hearing Me because I wanted our families to learn how to have good communication with their children from an early age. The SRP is a great way to support that communication."
Once a week for six weeks, parents meet with a trainer and practice reading a story while their children do literacy activities in another room. Later into each session, the parents read with their children. After each session, the families each take home a SRP book bag containing a storybook, a practice DVD of the story signed in ASL, a "Tips for Reading to Your Deaf Child" bookmark, and an activity guide with ideas related to the story.
Williams learned about the SRP through the Gallaudet University Regional Center in Florida. After receiving a $6,000 grant from the City of Orlando's Mayor's Matching Grant Program in 2012, she attended the Shared Reading Project: Keys to Success Training for Site Coordinators in Missouri and purchased the SRP book bag library.
One of the unique aspects of the program as run by Williams is that parents who are deaf and parents who are hearing are paired together. "In addition to mentoring each other on sign language skills and storytelling techniques, the parents also offer each other informal support on parenting issues," said Williams.
SRP sites can be found throughout the country at schools, community programs, libraries, and other settings. Click here for more information on the SRP and how you can bring it to your hometown.