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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Reading (01/25/07)

TITLE: Reading Between the Fingers
By Amy Michelle Wiley


“T” “H” “E” Renee stared at the page, struggling to make the random shapes turn into something understandable. She tried the letters out on her fingers and finally recognized it. “Oh, it’s that stupid word that doesn’t mean anything that the hearing stick on the front of everything.”

Renee looked up with surprise as a young lady entered the classroom. The teacher introduced her as Katie, a volunteer. A hearing volunteer, Renee could tell that much. She knew all about the hearing. After all, she’d been stuck with them for most of her ten years. All they cared about was making her conform. Fit in. Not stand out.

She had, too. She’d walked the walk, even if she couldn’t talk the talk. Until one day they’d discovered that she couldn’t read. Renee didn’t know what the big deal was, half the hearing kids couldn’t read, either.

Well, her mom thought it was a big deal and had taken her out of the public school and stuck her in the Deaf school, just like her dad had always wanted anyway. At first it had been kind of a shock. Everything was so different, and they used sign language so differently than the little Renee had been exposed to. But she’d caught on quickly. It had only been a few weeks, but already, for the first time in her life, she could communicate clearly.

She watched the volunteer fumble with the language as she talked with another student, and then settle into a smoother cadence. One thing Renee had gained from all her struggles--she was skilled at understanding others just from their facial cues and a million other little things that had nothing to do with words.

Oh great, here came the lady. She smiled and tapped Renee’s literature page, signing, “Need any help?”

Renee shrugged and looked away.

Katie sat down and angled the book a bit, catching the girl’s eye before raising her hand to ask, “Do you understand it?”

“Nothing.” She wasn’t sure she cared to, either.

“I’ll read a bit to you.”

Renee sighed and focused on Katie’s lips, hoping to catch a few helpful words here and there. But to her shock, Katie didn’t start speaking, but signing! She modified her sign language to follow the book’s word order and the story jumped to life.

Together they bent over the book, and slowly but ever so surely, the black and white forms on the page began to be more than “the hearing people’s language,” but were given meaning. And finally, Renee was given a glimpse of the world that awaited her deep inside the bookcase.

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This article has been read 1349 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Shari Armstrong 02/01/07
A great peak into a whole other world :) good job!
Allison Egley 02/03/07
OH, I loved this story. I got a bit confused at the beginning because I was trying to figure out what int he world a "hearing stick" was. ROFL! Oops! Don't worry. I'm pretty sure that's me, and not you. I loved how you were able to make the characters so compelling in such a short space.
Pat Guy 02/03/07
After I caught on to what this little girl was doing I absolutely loved this story! This is more than a glimpse - it's like a slice of life for the hearing impaired.

I REALLY enjoyed this - I'm so glad it wasn't boring. ;)
Sally Hanan02/04/07
This sounds like Amy at work on any day of the week! It's incredible the amount of work that goes into being a signing expert, and even more amazing that it can make such a huge difference in the life of a child like Renee.
Kaylee Blake 02/05/07
I loved it! You so know the deaf people and their culture so well! And to portray it through a deaf girl's eyes to the hearing...wow. Awesome as always.
Kathleen Morris02/05/07
Wonderful story. You turned a light on inside my head as to what life must be like for a deaf person. Thank you!
william price02/05/07
I really liked this and loved the ending. God bless.
Suzanne R02/05/07
I used to work in the library of a hearing school and Kate was truly one of our students there. I watched her world come to life after a hearing special ed teacher began to work with her. As I read this, I could just picture Kate again ... thanks for the nostalgia. You've written this well ... sorry I've nothing particularly helpful to say ... I thought it was great.
Suzanne R02/05/07
Oops - just realized that Kate was the helper ... you're wrong there ... HELEN was the helper. Just goes to show how engrossed I was in your story ;-)
Joanne Sher 02/06/07
Renee is such a compelling character - so real. I just loved this wonderful story of a world I know so little about.
Sara Harricharan 02/07/07
I really like this! I love the characters, and how the volunteer didn't just 'read' the story, but 'told' it. She was the perfect one to help the girl. Very good descriptions and wonderful writing! ^_^
Julie Arduini02/07/07
A wonderful message few of us really think about. In my daughter's preschool is a child learning to speak and read now that he's been diagnosed as hearing impaired, he just lights up after three years of no one understanding his plight. Very solid writing.
Timothy Oesch02/07/07
Great example of how most people simply ignore the plights of others. Everyone is always so caught up with their own problems that they often times forget that other people have problems too. Happens to me all of the time, and usually the other person's problems are far worse than my own.... Good writing.
Donna Powers 02/07/07
Very cool! I love this take on the topic. An enjoyable story and a very well-written one. Thanks for sharing it