Sign language + story time = More fun and learning!

by Lane Rebelo, LCSW, Master Signing Time Instructor

In communities across America, story time is a favorite activity at libraries, child care centers and preschools for good reason. Children enjoy stories that seem to jump off the pages of the book thanks to engaging extras like songs & rhymes, puppets, props, related crafts, or simply an animated storyteller who entrances the children with every word. Story times that incorporate American Sign Language can introduce families with young ones to a hands-on second language and add an appealing new twist, making story time even more fun, educational, and engaging.

Why Story Time is So Important
By hosting story time at their libraries, communities are promoting the many benefits of early exposure to language and books. For example, infants discover rhythm and rhyme by listening to the songs and stories. They also get to hear the voice used in new and varied ways. Story time can help toddlers develop motor and language skills, and increase vocabulary. And for preschoolers, story time can ignite the imagination and cultivate a lifetime love of books.

A multi-year study has actually illustrated that kindergarteners who participated at story time arrived with well-developed receptive language abilities, stronger vocabularies, and are generally better prepared for learning.

How Signing Fits In
Research has also shown dramatic benefits when sign language is used to complement and support learning in young children. And more and more communities are taking heed by making sign language a routine part of their story time schedule. Signing with young children can transform a traditional story time event into a powerful learning environment, all while having a ton of interactive fun!

If you are a parent, early childhood educator, community recreation director, or librarian, it’s time to consider adding a “Signing Story Time” to your local calendar. Here’s why:

It’s fun!
It’s no wonder why certain songs and finger-plays are perennial favorites among young children. Think about The Wheels on the Bus, I’m a Little Teapot, and The Itsy Bitsy Spider – what comes to mind? Children love to be involved and in motion, especially using their hands.

When you add sign language to your story time, you invite children and adults to actively participate in stories – literally becoming part of the story – by signing key words along with the story as it is told. Children immediately enjoy the thrill of participation and the choreography of movements. All the while, families are having a great time while learning something new!

It’s engaging!
Watching a storyteller who incorporates sign language into his or her story time is captivating to young children and grown-ups alike. Joann Woolley of Sign4Baby performs an average of three Signing Story Times each week at libraries all over the San Diego area. Woolley reflects on the difference signing makes at story times, “Engaging children by signing books and music is quite like going to the theatre for adults.”

Woolley explains, “The animation, if you will, from facial expression (an important factor in ASL), voice inflection (just like actors would use) and, of course, signing (the most captivating part!) creates an engaging atmosphere. This is what makes signing story time enjoyable for both parents and babies.”

It’s inclusive!
There are many families who use American Sign Language as their primary language, or as a way to support communication in a spoken language. Libraries and other organizations that offer a story time that includes sign language are creating an opportunity to welcome and include families who use ASL in a community activity they can more fully participate in and enjoy.

If you are a parent, librarian, teacher, or child care provider who would like to bring a signing story time to your community, contact your local Signing Time Academy Instructor today for help in planning your Signing Story Time.