Is it as difficult as I think it must be?
Well, learning to read isn’t “easy” for any kid, but it’s no harder for deaf kids than for hearing kids, because in most modern American public schools, hearing kids learn to read the same way deaf kids do: through the so-called “look-say” method. That is, both deaf and hearing kids learn to recognize combinations of letters as words.
Now, there are still some who insist that phonics is the only proper way to teach kids reading (it’s how I was taught to read, way back in the old Catholic school days), and obviously, deaf kids can’t learn reading THAT way.
I’m given to understand that in Deaf culture there’s a precept called “total communication”. This holds that Deaf students should be taught all means of communication available to them - reading, writing, lip reading, and sign language. Actually, I read that illiteracy rates among Deaf people are quite high, for the same reason that most French people cannot read or write in English - they simply haven’t learned much of the language, having learned sign language instead.
(sorry, I should clarify) These rates, of course, are the result of NOT having been taught total communication.
By using what’s betwixt their ears.