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Follow Your Bliss

Studies over the years have shown that, when it comes to reading levels, many Deaf or hard of hearing students lag behind their hearing peers, particularly in high school. Does this mean parents with a Deaf or hard of hearing child should forgo exposing their children to literature? Gary Wellbrock, an elementary teacher for Deaf and hard of hearing students in New York, would offer a resounding no!

Wellbrock, already a Licensed Reading Specialist, is currently completing his Ph.D. in Language, Literacy and Learning at Fordham University. In 2007, as a means to share with others “the joy and privilege” of his teaching adventure, he created the blog Follow Your Bliss. The blog serves as a place to display the work of the students in his kindergarten or first grade classes, but with book recommendations, ASL videos, advice on how to bring literature alive to students with hearing loss, and explanations of statistics, the reading process, and Deaf culture, it is also a valuable resource to all parents of early elementary aged Deaf or hard of hearing children.

If you’re wondering about the name of the blog, Wellbrock borrowed the phrase, “follow your bliss” from educator and writer, Joseph Campbell. The simplified translation of the expression is “living an authentic life doing what you love.” For Wellbrock, being an educator is his bliss. He thrives in “creating an environment that fosters that feeling of ‘I can’t wait to go to school today!’” He passes this philosophy onto his students by encouraging his “students to have a voice, to question, to think, to ‘follow their bliss’ by expressing themselves.” Wellbrock believes parents can carry this practice into the home “by allowing their children to be who they are showing themselves to be [and] to follow their instincts when deciding what is best for their child. There are a lot of options out there and they know their child better than anyone else.”



Returning to the issue of literacy, Wellbrock scripted several posts on the issue that explore the basic factors that contribute to the lower reading levels. He also presents tactics for parents to implement in increasing a child’s interest in reading. Some of the tips offered by him include:
  • Read to your children.
  • Discuss the pictures.
  • Encourage your children to engage in telling and listening to stories.
  • Follow simple recipes.
  • Let children write the shopping list.
  • Allow them to read and search for the items [on the shopping list].
  • Leave notes – in lunch boxes, on post-it’s, on the refrigerator.
  • Lead by example. Let them see you read.
For those who communicate by American Sign Language, the post “Multiple Meanings” explains the advantage of ASL readings of books. Unlike English, words, such as bat, have separate signs for the different meanings. If a student uses the incorrect sign, it’s obvious they did not fully comprehend what they read. Picture the look of delight that crosses a child’s eyes when they are shown the correct word and they finally comprehend the story! Following this particular post and some of the others, Wellbrock includes an ASL video that builds on the subject matter of his post. Furthermore, he provides book recommendations for parents to further explore the issue on their own.

With abounding book recommendations for elementary children and adults, it’s advised that readers come to the blog with paper and pen. Parents will want to start a reading list for children and adults alike!




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