Jessica Greenfield learned to talk with her hands even before she learned to talk with her mouth. That’s because her parents, Robin and Eldon, are both deaf. She learned to talk aloud from listening to her grandmother and her older brother, Jonathan, and from watching television.
At age 11, Jessica uses her voice to talk a lot about all sorts of subjects, including her favorites, which are cooking, horses, and learning scripture stories from her Primary teacher. But she still talks just as well with her hands because she uses American Sign Language, called signing, to talk to her parents and to the other hearing-impaired members of the Torrance Fourth Branch.
Because Jessica is surrounded with words, both those she can see and those she hears, she has become a very good reader. She says, “My brother, Jonathan, taught me to read when I was starting kindergarten. It’s interesting that television actually helped me and my brother learn a lot of words and how to pronounce them correctly. It really helped us when we started school.”
Jessica also learned to read well from watching the words that appear at the bottom of the television. It’s called closed captioning. The words that people say on television are typed and scrolled across the bottom of the screen. Jessica became a very good reader by reading the captions as she listened.
Jessica also likes to read about recipes. She logs on to the Internet and types in the kind of food she wants to make and searches for recipes. She likes to bake cookies and cakes. She likes simple recipes the best—ones that don’t have too many ingredients. Jessica has already planned on baking her own chocolate birthday cake. She found a recipe that looks wonderful, with not too many ingredients.
Also on the Internet, Jessica found a recipe for gingersnaps. “It turned out that the recipe was 128 years old. It was created just after the Civil War. Don’t you think that’s interesting?” she asks.
The cookies tasted great, but Jessica couldn’t resist trying a little experiment. She used food coloring to make the cookies green. Then she put some orange food coloring in some granulated sugar and shook it, turning all the sugar bright orange. Then she sprinkled the orange sugar on the green cookies. “I took three cookies to school,” Jessica says, “but no one would try them except for the teacher.”
Jessica and her best friend, Mariah, met when they were just babies. Mariah’s mother, Beverly, helped Jessica’s mother when she was having trouble communicating at a restaurant. The two women have been friends ever since. Their two daughters have been best friends for 10 years, and the girls share some of the same dreams for the future. Both girls want to grow up to be horse trainers, even though they’ve never actually ridden a horse yet. They also want to save their money and visit Ireland. They both have ancestors who came from there. As she grows, Jessica hopes to learn more about her family history.
For now, Jessica is becoming more and more of a help to her parents. She can help her parents communicate with hearing people on the telephone and in person, and she often asks directions to the correct bus stops and for information from the bus schedule. When asked the best thing about his daughter, Jessica’s dad signs, with a big smile, “Her cooking.” But then he is a little more serious and signs a longer sentence. Jessica watches him and then translates. “He says he’ll always love me.”