This article reports findings from an ethnographic action research study of Deaf and hearing parents and young children participating in a family American Sign Language (ASL) literacy program in Ontario, Canada. The study documents the context for parents’ and children’s learning of ASL in an environment where resources for supporting early ASL literacy have been scarce. Through semi-structured interviews and observations of six individual families or parent-child dyads, the study documents participants’ encounters with professionals who regulate Deaf children and their families’ access to ASL.
At the same time, the setting of the ASL Parent-Child Mother Goose Program is presented as a Deaf cultural space and thereby a counter-discourse to medical discourses regarding Deaf identity and bilingualism. This space features the Deaf mother participants’ ASL literacy and numeracy practices and improvisations of ASL rhymes and stories to enhance their suitability for young children. The practices of the ASL Parent-Child Mother Goose Program leader also serve to define and support emergent ASL literacy. In addition, a Deaf cultural space inside a broader context of public services to young Deaf children provides a means for the hearing mother participants to facilitate critical inquiry of issues surrounding bilingualism, ASL, and a Deaf identity.