Some studies have shown that the average deaf or hearing-impaired person holds a fourth grade reading level, but the Memphis Public Library hopes to change that with a new program aimed at improving their literacy skills.
The American Library Association chose the Memphis Public Library & Information Center to be the recipient of its 2012 Light the Way Grant. As the winner of the grant, the library will receive $3,000 for their new “Read With Me, Sign With Me” project.
The Memphis library beat out more than 20 applicants from other libraries across the country. The grant was awarded this month.
Mary Seratt, coordinator of library youth services, said the grant would provide sign language interpreters, “big books” that are specifically for children who are deaf and hearing-impaired, and literacy workshops for parents of those children.
Seratt said she hopes the grant will attract more kids who are deaf and hearing-impaired to take advantage of the library.
“Hopefully, they will get the idea that the library is a place for [them] and the library has fun things to do,” Seratt said. “And later, [they may] avail themselves of all the resources we have—use the computers, get help with [their] taxes. We want to be there for everybody in the community.”
The grant will enable the library to screen Deaf Jam, a documentary about poetry in sign language, to project participants. They will also use the grant to expand their selection of books for the deaf or hard of hearing.
“Wherever there’s a need, we would like for people to be able to walk into the library and [hand] sign to a librarian what they want or what their reference question is and have [employees] understand,” Seratt said. “It would just be a more comfortable place.”
The library is partnering with the Deaf Family Literacy Academy of Memphis for the project.