Earlier this week, I was able to attend an ALA webinar called “Liven up Baby and Toddler Storytimes with Sign Language” presented by Kathy Macmillan. I was excited to learn about this topic because I am hoping to learn to communicate through signing with my own little one at home, but also because I know many of our member libraries work with small kids and thought this could be a fun addition to their storytime routine!
Kathy began the presentation by laying out the multiple benefits of including ASL (American Sign Language) in your library programs. There were a ton! Some of which were: kids are able to sign before they can speak, signing stimulates language development, it reduces frustration, and learning one form of communication encourages more communication in general. Plus, signing is an instant way to get kids to participate!
The next step is to consider which signs to include in your storytelling program. Kathy shared it’s a good idea to start small, with just a few signs, and gradually build from there. Pick signs that can be repeated throughout the program, and make sure they have meaning for your audience. For example, choosing the signs for “dog” or “cat” instead of “hyena” just makes sense.
The following two steps go together: learning and practicing the signs. Kathy’s thought is that books can be a bit tricky when it comes to learning ASL, so your best bet is videos. Also, it is important to make sure the resources you choose are actually ASL resources. Here are some resources she shared with us:
And here is one of my favorite videos from the webinar. It’s an example she gave for beginning and ending storytime, and also is a great way for beginners (like me!) to practice signing.
This blog article has more links to additional resources and storytelling videos from Kathy.
Kathy also suggested expanding your resources by including others – patrons who may be deaf, volunteers or staff members taking ASL classes, or any friends and family with ASL experience.
Personally, I found this webinar very engaging and fun! It seems like a great addition to library storytime, with the added bonus of further developing language and communication skills.
If you would like to incorporate ASL more into your everyday library interactions, not just storytime, check out Kathy’s upcoming e-course “Basic American Sign Language for Library Staff” which begins January 23rd.