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National Editorials & Columns

Communication goes beyond verbal interaction

A part of literacy is empathizing with people who are unable to hear.  I challenge you to watch one half hour of TV with the sound off.  Many people live this way.  Some programs have devices to help them, but others do not.  So how do those unable to hear understand the program?  They actually can comprehend much more than you might think even if they are unable to read lips. 

The challenge of understanding without hearing is clearly watching facial expressions (emotions and thoughts), gestures (short, quick movements) and body movements (posture) closely.  Other things that clue your understanding are: clothes, color and jewelry.  Even the type of house lived in or the type of pets help your understanding.  Space between people or space between furniture adds to your knowledge.  Time is clued in by light and dark.

Can there be silence in a silent world?  Actually yes, absence of verbal messages is determined by movement to the mouth.  If you really concentrate you can even detect warmth of feeling, embarrassment and prejudice.  If you tried this experiment you learned much and you will find yourself tired after interpreting a program using only four senses.

Nonverbal communication is influenced by culture, sex, fashion, age, and circumstances.  What may surprise you is that feelings are expressed non-verbally.  Only 7 % of our feelings are expressed through words. 38 % of our feeling through voice and 55 % through facial expression (eye contact).

What the person who can’t hear loses is vocal inflection.  They are unable to tell loudness or softness, whether there is a musical quality to the voice, or even the rate of the number of sounds.  They are unable to determine accents which give clues as to location or tone of voice which indicates the message behind the words.

Have you ever had anyone ask you to articulate better?  Speaking distinctly and clearly helps anyone hear better.  A raspy or breathy sound to the voice adds character to what is said and those hard of hearing miss that.  One other clue is the distance people are from each other.  Most people allow close friends and loved ones to be as close as 18 inches.  People we know can usually be between 18 inches and four feet.  Socially we prefer people to be four to twelve feet from us and publicly we prefer them to be eight to twelve feet or beyond and that is just in America.  See how you fit into those space limits.  I had an Italian brother-in-law and our family learned different standards.  If you stuck with the viewing challenge you may have felt out of control.  We fine tune our others senses when one isn’t working correctly.  In literacy it doesn’t quite work that way.

A poor reader doesn’t feel in control of his/her own reading comprehension, so a bedtime routine enables him to comprehend more and more, especially if they get the chance to discuss what is read.  A bedtime routine also helps develop a reading appetite.  Bedtimes can be a time of family unity and bonding, if as parents you plan well and are consistent.

Aspiring to success is the American way and society in some ways determines what is success or failure. We need many goals along the way, some easy and some more challenging and we need some small successes and some great successes to build our self- esteem, but self-esteem is also built on how we handle our failures. Sjternburg set priorities needs as:  belonging, being loved and respected, being understood and achieving. Covington and Bery said that self-image serves as blueprints to future development.

Parental attitudes determine much of self-esteem by accepting the child in his or her own right and by laying down clear and forcible rules of conduct.  Children need to know: What can I do? What can I not do?  They also need a wide latitude to explore.  It starts out simply by letting them play in a playpen, then outside of one.  As they mature so does the structure of their exploring.

Adults guide children to and through the world of literacy.  The goal of literacy is to be a lifelong reader who gains information and reads for pleasure. Just as exposure to books as a child leads to a sense of story structure and builds vocabulary, exposure to books leads the adult to many hours of pleasure and to meeting the informational needs of a lifetime.

There is no question that verbal interaction between an adult and child during story readings has a major influence on literacy development.  Story making is a major way we learn.  We shape our intellect through story which includes fiction and nonfiction. If a child sees an adult often reading, he/she will assume that reading is a necessary ingredient of life.  As few as eight minutes a day five days a week makes a difference in comprehension.

Literacy leads to better communication.  If I understand what I read and can write about it, then I too can better understand you.  Literacy expands the mind.  A variety of reading acquaints me with the world and encourages me to be concerned for others.

Until next week…  Christine Pauley

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