Empowering Deaf a Chance in Literacy


September is National Literacy Month. I’d highly suggest reading this book, Illiterate America written by Jonathan Kozol. The book does not specifically discuss Deaf discourses, or the literature directly to the Deaf people in literacy struggles. I’ve read most of the books by great Deaf writers way before 1880 International Congress on Education of the Deaf in Milan, Italy, the literature written by Deaf people were amazing. I was mind-blown away by their skills and critical thinking. 

However, the educators of the Deaf from all around the world gathered together in Italy to vote ban sign language in education and employment. Delegates from the United States were the only people who disagreed with the Milan’s vote of banning sign languages, had given the power to the educational agencies to control Deaf people’s literacy skills. That’s where the hate speech against the language and culture by Deaf people had been battling literature bigotry for years and years.

September is also National Deaf Awareness Month and World Speak Out Month. After 1880 Milan, it was not the same for Deaf community anymore. A lot of Deaf people suffered with literacy. It was never their fault. It was the systemic failure. Who determined what is best decision for Deaf people? They suffered through Oralism and forced to speak and listen instead of learning how to write in literature, and sign at the same time. It is claimed of bias. Oralism favor oppressing the literature of sign language, one with a long history. The rest were legacy enough for literacy struggles. When I read stories by Deaf people’s struggles with literacy either in person, old books, storied lectures, and posts, it was never illiterate to them at all and that is the amazing part. I look forward to receive a book called The Last Deaf Club in America by Raymond Luczak anytime soon.


Since I am a bibliophile, the National Book Festival today in Washington, D.C., popped the question in my mind, since District of Columbia is the home of the world’s first and only university for the Deaf, Gallaudet University, and one of the largest populations in the world. National Book Festival attracts a lot of people. Bigger than a football stadium. Maybe two football stadiums together. It is also good time to expose those people about Deaf Awareness Month–because it is part of National Literacy Month as well.

The opportunity cannot be missed. At least to have the National Book Festival invite a Deaf writer every year and share their experiences, because it is responsibility of National Book Festival to carry on literacy in Deaf community. 

Do you think it is important to have National Book Festival to invite Deaf writer each year? Why or Why not? I mean, the National Book Festival is a public book event organized and sponsored by the Library of Congress, in fact, the name of Gallaudet was engraved there with other people, I wrote an article: “Honoring our benefactors, and our helplessness too?” in DEAF LIFE, March 2014 Issue:

The elaborate wall and ceiling murals and mosaics in the Library of Congress’s Thomas Jefferson Building convey a message about the public perception of Deaf people……there’s a mosaic banner with a quotation from Confucius, ‘Give instruction unto those who cannot procure it for themselves.’”

I took few friends there. Library of Congress is the mother of all libraries, there is a power in naming things. The media about Deaf people is arguably the most invisible identity in America, even in social media. Again, District of Columbia is the world’s first higher education for Deaf for very long time, even in 2018, where the festival should have Deaf writer or even big section with all the books who were written by Deaf people only for people to browse, buy, and read. It’d be awesome idea! Time for a radical and healthy idea. Educate festival goers. Educate writers. Educate book-lovers.

Library of Congress does have history with Gallaudet. The tile as you will see below where I took picture of it, ended up left with big chunk of tile, and Library of Congress decided to donate those beautiful tiles at Gallaudet where it was built inside College Hall. Did the Deaf community aware about the relationship with Library of Congress that is also sponsored National Book Festival to be prominent consultant whose expertise in literacy?

Copyright © 2018 Jason Tozier
This text may be freely copied in its entirely only, including this copyright message. 


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