Monday, June 25, 2012

ASL books for kids

American Sign Language (ASL) books for kids

As a general rule, unless I am under obligation to SLJ or LT, I don't write reviews of books that I don't like.  The work of many committed people goes into the commercial publication of a book, and it would be the height of arrogance to assume that I am the best or only arbiter of good taste and quality.  I offer my opinions here for the benefit of myself and those who may not have the time to read as extensively or expansively as I do.  That being said, without referencing a particular book, I wish to offer a caveat regarding American Sign Language books for children.

I am very fortunate in that I work with a deaf woman who has been teaching me sign language for over a year.  She and I often share books and discussion about deaf culture, ASL, and unrelatedly, our interest in star gazing. (We both loved Wonderstruck.)

Over the past few weeks, I've received numerous new ASL picture books at my branch.  These recent additions depict ASL in simplistic drawings.  This may make for a cute picture book, but the signs are nearly impossible to decipher and replicate with one's actual hands. Sign language is a fluid language.  The required movements are very difficult to duplicate in pictures.  If you must rely on printed text and illustrations (which will work fine for most of the ASL alphabet), purchase or borrow books with photographs of hands rather than artistic renderings.  A better suggestion, however, if you are seeking to teach ASL, is using one of the many kid-friendly DVDs, or YouTube tutorials.  Purchasing books which rely on simple, hand-rendered illustrations of complex signs is, in my opinion, a waste of money.  My co-worker did use our new books to teach me something - the signs for "wrong picture."  (I already knew the signs for "bad book.")

If you want to learn about deaf culture or ASL, check out the site for the National Association of the Deaf, or the National Institutes of Health site, or best of all, ask a deaf person.

Today is Nonfiction Monday.


  1. What kid-friendly dvds do you (and your friend) recommend? I need to update this section in my library.

  2. Signing Time! is the best DVD series that we have. They're very popular, too. They circulate quite a bit. Thanks for asking.

  3. Thanks! Our neighboring library serves a town with a school for the deaf, so we usually just borrow their stuff, but I'd like to have a few things myself!

  4. Sounds like great advice, thank you so much for sharing. Will also check out the dvd series you noted above.

  5. Very interesting. I am more familiar with JSL, Japanese Sign Language, which is a requirement at elementary schools here, and have found the same thing, it is very hard to understand illustrations of signs.

  6. I wonder if there is much difference between JSL and ASL. Because my co-worker is orignially from India and often uses older versions of signs that have been swapped out here in the States for more politically correct ones, I've joked with her that I've been learning ISL. It's interesting that JSL is a school requirement in Japan. Does Japan have a higher incidence of deafness, do you suppose?

  7. New ASL iBook for your iPad! (Also has an audio option to listen to the book in spoken English).

    "Strollin' with Little Baby Owen" by Owen Tales is our new ASL & English book about a goofy Goldendoodle dog and his adventures in NYC.

    You can also check out some of the ASL read aloud from this book by Lauren Ridloff at

    Or watch Lauren sign one of the pages at

    And you can "Like" OwenTales on Facebook at to find out about more OwenTales ASL books.

    We have a couple more free download coupons - if you know a Deaf or CODA kid who would like to read our book, send us a FB message or a message from our website form:

    We would love to hear what you think! Thanks :)

  8. it is good read. Although Spanish would be useful in my current job, most of the time. your post is very nice. thank Language Development


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