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Hearing Loss in Children's Literature

When I first began working with students with hearing loss
in 2005, I wanted to find pictures books featuring characters with hearing loss
that I could read with my preschool students. I went to my local library,
excitedly checked out a stack of picture books, and raced home to preview them
figuring I’d choose my top two favorites to share with my class the next day. Wouldn’t
the kids be excited to see characters with hearing aids in a picture book! As I
read, I became increasingly disappointed. The characters with hearing loss were
often portrayed as lacking in ability compared to the characters with typical
hearing. The story lines were a weak attempt to educate the reader about
hearing loss without any real plot. The language of the text was overly
simplified and dull. There had to be better books out there!

Over the next few years, through Internet searches,
interlibrary loan and conversations with a librarian friend, I found books that
feature strong characters with hearing loss, normalizing the hearing loss and
making it one theme of the book rather than the single focal point. I found
books with rich narrative language and books with story lines that students with
and without hearing loss enjoy. Although there are numerous picture books like
this, I wanted to share a few of my favorites with you. Instructional texts
(about visits to the audiologist or getting hearing aids or cochlear implants)
have their place and can help students with hearing loss, as well as their typically
hearing classmates, understand the amplification. In addition to instructional
texts, books such as the ones listed below provide all students with an
engaging plot and an integrated view of living with hearing loss.

Lakin, Patricia. Dad
and Me in the Morning. Albert Whitman and Company, 1994.

Jacob and his dad wake up early one morning before the rest
of the family for a special walk out to the nearby beach to watch the sunrise.
The author incorporates hearing loss while focusing on the special father-son
bond. Hearing loss is mentioned as Jacob puts his hearing aids on in the
morning, speechreads his father in the house so as not to wake the family, and
uses ASL at the beach to tell his dad that he wants to repeat this event.

Uhlberg, Myron. The
Printer. Peachtree Publishers, 2003.

Told from the perspective of a young boy about his father, The Printer is the story of the
father’s life working in a print shop. His feelings of isolation related to his
hearing loss and bonds with fellow deaf workers are presented in a matter of
fact manner. During a fire in the print shop, the father is the first to
notice. He signs, “Fire!” to fellow deaf workers who then spread the
message. Due to the noise of the printers, the hearing workers did not hear the
fire or crashing wooden beams. In the end, the hearing workers learn to sign,“Thank
so they can directly thank the father for saving them. The father is
presented as the hero and respect from others is also acknowledged. The tone of
the young boy is one of admiration for his grandfather’s deeds rather than pity
for his hearing loss. One of my students loved this book so much that she chose
to present it to her class!

Hesse, Karen.
Lester’s Dog. Crown Publishers, 1993.

In this book, told from the perspective of a hearing boy, a
neighborhood dog terrorizes the children. Corey is deaf but depicted as the
braver and more thoughtful of the two boys. He leads his friend past Lester’s
dog to rescue a kitten. On the way back, Lester’s dog is waiting in the
shadows. The boys escape and Corey indicates that the kitten should be given to
a lonely neighbor. In this way, the author subtly suggests that perhaps Corey
feels the same way and so is able to relate without having to state this
explicitly. Hearing loss is part of the book but not the focus. Corey’s hearing
aid is mentioned when the kitten’s paw catches on it, and his limited auditory ability
is apparent when the friend calls and Corey does not respond. The presentation
is simple and clear. This book is really about a typically hearing boy who
happens to have a friend with hearing loss.

Seeger, Pete . The
Deaf Musicians. G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2006.

This book tells the story of Lee, a piano player who loses
his hearing. Upon losing his
hearing, Lee is dismissed from the band by the leader, being told, “…who
will listen to a deaf musician?
” Not one to be discouraged, Lee learns ASL
after seeing a flier for a class, comparing the rhythm and fluidity of the hand
movements to that of music. Lee meets Max in the class, another deaf musician.
Together with people that they meet, Lee and Max form their own jazz band. In
the end, Lee runs into his former band leader and states, “Remember when you
asked me, ‘Who will listen to a deaf musician?’
” and the final page states,
Everyone!” in large colorful letters. This book sends the message that
hearing loss may not be understood by others, but that should not stop a person
from pursuing their dream.

Booth, Barbara D.
Mandy. Lathrop, Lee & Shepard Books. 1991.

Mandy wears hearing aids and she communicates with ASL as
well as spoken language. She loves to visit her grandmother and hear stories
about her mother and grandfather, bake, and simply spend time together. During
one visit, Mandy and her grandmother take a walk at dusk and grandmother loses
a special pin that was a gift from her husband. They are not able to find it in
the field. Late at night there is a storm. Although Mandy is afraid of the
dark, she draws up the courage to go outside… and finds the pin! Mandy is the
hero in this book but her act is about conquering her own fear of the dark just
as much as it is about finding the pin. One of my fifth grade students particularly
loved this book and wrote to her school librarian requesting that she buy it
for the school library – which the librarian did! As part of her letter, she

This is a book about
a girl with hearing aids and very sharp eyes.  When her grandmother loses
a pin that Mandy’s grandfather had given her grandmother for their 25th wedding
anniversary, Mandy rushes out into the woods when her grandmother isn’t
looking.  It’s storming but that can’t stop her from finding her grandmother’s
pin.  In the end, she found it! This is a very good book that explains to
people that aren’t deaf what being deaf is actually like.  People who are
not deaf and also people who are tired of being deaf should read this book.”

Stryer, Andrea Stenn.
Kami and the Yaks. Bay Otter Press, 2007.

Inspired by a true story, this book tells the story of Kami,
a deaf Sherpa boy in the Himalayas. Kami’s whole family must work in order to
provide for basic needs and Kami is not excluded. Early one morning, the Yaks
cannot be found. Kami sets off to find them despite the impending storm. Kami’s
cleverness leads him to the Yaks where he discovers that one has been injured.
His family is not able to hear his whistle over the loud thunder so Kami is forced
to make the treacherous trek down the mountain to get help. Kami finds his
father, but father is not able to understand what Kami is trying to tell him
with his hands. Again, through his cleverness, Kami is able to get his point
across and a team is able to rescue the injured Yak. Kami’s cleverness is the focal point of the
book rather than his hearing loss, and while he is presented as the hero, he is
also shown to be a contributing member of his family and community through
ordinary tasks.

What are your
favorite picture books featuring characters with hearing loss?

Hear Me Out

The Hear Me Out blog provides unique resources for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. It's a forum for itinerant teachers of the deaf to share their experiences as they grow as professionals! It is produced by Clarke's Mainstream Services team as part of our mission to support children with hearing loss and the professionals who serve them.

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About the Hear Me Out Blog

Itinerant teachers of the deaf (TOD) provide direct services to children with hearing loss in mainstream schools, consultation to their teachers, and professional development to school staff. Itinerant TODs travel to a child’s neighborhood school to provide one-on-one educational support, foster listening and spoken language development, and help children build social and self-advocacy skills. They also act as a liaison between the family and their mainstream school. Hear Me Out provides a unique forum for these special teachers to share their experiences as they grow as professionals.

Hear Me Out is produced by Mainstream Services at Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech as part of our mission to support children with hearing loss and the professionals who serve them.

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Hear Me Out Blog

About the Author

Heather Stinson (CAGS, MED, S/LP-A) received her master’s degree in Education of the Deaf from Smith College in 2006 and a graduate certificate in Children, Families, and Schools (with a concentration in research methodology) from the University of Massachusetts in 2012. In addition to her many years of experience working with children with hearing loss who communicate using listening and spoken language, Heather has also worked as a preschool classroom teacher.

Heather has presented both locally and nationally on issues related to mainstreaming students with hearing loss and is a contributing author to Odyssey magazine. Heather currently works as an itinerant teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing at Clarke Mainstream Services, a program of Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech.

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