Donna Jo Napoli and Julian Turner discuss the e-book project

Supporting Literacy Among Deaf Children – an E-Book Project

“We’re trying to promote this for deaf children, because 96% of deaf children are born into hearing families who didn’t expect to have a deaf child and they are not signers themselves. So it becomes an issue of how to get this child language. They are visual learners, whether they’re being raised orally or being raised with sign and speech.” – Donna Jo Napoli, Professor of Linguistics

Since 2012, Donna Jo Napoli has worked to develop an interactive solution to obstacles in early sign learning through the development of an e-book project, a process integrated into her course: Supporting Literacy Among Deaf Children. She and her partner in this endeavor, Gene Mirus, an assistant professor of American Sign Language and deaf studies at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. identify works that are of interest to children and their families and create original content that is combined into the e-book format. Often you will hear passages read while viewing persons signing to the passages of the book. This highly visual presentation is immediately engaging to young deaf and hearing-impaired children.

“They’re caught by the videos of someone signing and pretty soon they’re mimicking the signing. And we are finding that the adults are often mimicking the signing, too. And the parent and child are having fun working with the signing together,” she says.

A SEED grant for faculty research enabled her to create the e-books through Apple’s iBooks Author along with video production. Students enrolled in her course help to edit the content together and publish through iTunes, the publishing platform through which users can obtain the ebooks for desktop and mobile devices.

“We’re targeting deaf children, but really deaf people in general can use our help and deaf parents can use our help. Also by having a voiceover we allow the deaf child who’s got hearing siblings to share books together,” Napoli explains.

Her Supporting Literacy Among Deaf Children course will begin again in the Fall 2017 semester. If you would like to know more, please contact your Academic Technologists at