Monday, March 28, 2011

Sign Language for Kids

For the past several months I've been writing a book on American Sign Language (ASL) for beginners. Am I qualified? Absolutely--I'm a complete beginner. When I started this project I didn't know one single sign. That's what I like about being a freelance writer. It introduces you to subjects you know nothing about, and before long, you're a semi-expert in the field. In my quest to learn ASL, I've enrolled in a class and, naturally, I've done a ton of research. Since my book will be geared to adults, I've focused on adult sources. However, one day in the children's section of my local library, I browsed the 400 section and found Lora Heller's Sign Language for Kids: A Fun & Easy Guide to American Sign language. It was published by Sterling in 2004, and it is, without a doubt, one of the best introductions to sign language that I've found. Why learn ASL? Even if they don't know someone who is deaf or hearing-impaired, many kids enjoy learning new languages, which ASL most definitely is. In fact, ASL has become so popular that it is now the fourth language studied in the U.S. Pretty impressive!

Sign Language for Kids features six engaging child models demonstrating the signs. The close-up photographs are sharp and clear, making them easy to follow (which is more than I can say for some of the adult books). The text begins by teaching kids how to form the manual alphabet and numbers up to one hundred.  The following chapters are organized according to a child's interests, such as home, family, pets, school, favorite foods, sports and hobbies. When applicable, Heller explains the reasoning behind a sign and offers hints to help remember it. For instance, to form the the sign for "learn" you mimic picking something up from your open palm and touching your fingers to your forehead. This symbolizes taking knowledge from a book and putting it into your brain. To help remember the sign for "summer" (you draw your index finger across your forehead), Heller advises pretending you're wiping sweat off your brow. The book concludes with a section on linking words and instruction on how to form sentences. By the time a child has reached the final page, he or she will be able to express simple thoughts in ASL, quite an accomplishment.

This week's Nonfiction Monday is at Practically Paradise.

1 comment:

  1. I'm learning sign language from a deaf co-worker. It's been fun to learn (really! - we have a lot of laughs), and as you mentioned, many of the signs make sense once they're explained. Having a book with real photos is so much more helpful than those with drawn illustrations.