Nita’s First Signs now available for pre-order!


Coming April 3, 2018 from Familius Press!

Nita’s First Signs by Kathy MacMillan

illustrated by Sara Brezzi

Baby sign language makes it easy to communicate with your child, and Nita makes it fun! Nita’s First Signs teaches ten essential signs for every parent and child to know, including eat, more, hungry, milk, all done, ball, play, love, please, and thank you. A simple story about Nita and her parents teaches each sign in context, and repetition throughout each story makes them easy to practice. Even better, each page slides open to reveal accurate instructions on how to make each sign, plus tabs on the side of each page make it simple to locate every sign for later reference. Baby sign language collections aren’t complete without Nita!

Preorder now at | |

Little Hands Signing at Play Date Junction!


Come sign and play with Miss Kathy at Play Date Junction, a creative playspace in Elkridge, MD!  Find out more about Play Date junction here.

Little Hands Signing: First Signs – Monday, March 6 at 10 AM

Play Date Junction, 6020 Meadowridge Center Drive, Elkridge, MD 21075

Little Hands Signing brings the magic of sign language to you and your child through age-appropriate stories, songs, activities, and games, along with tips and tricks for caregivers on using signs in everyday activities. Each theme-based class will introduce and reinforce signs from a young child’s world.

Age Group:  Birth – 5 years of age with a caregiver (siblings welcome)

Registration Cost: $20 for 1 caregiver; $28 for 2 caregivers (children 12 and under are free)

Register now!


Move and Groove @ your library this summer!

Coming to a library near you!  For 2016’s Collaborative Summer Reading Program theme, “On Your Mark, Get Set….Read!”, it’s…

kid-clipart-clip-art-kids-1LITTLE HANDS SIGNING: LET’S MOVE!

Wiggle, giggle, dance, and sign!  It’s time for American Sign Language stories, songs, and fun that celebrate all the ways we move.  Click on the links below for more information about each library.


Baltimore County Public Library (MD)

Tuesday, June 28, 10:30 AM: Towson Library

Saturday, July 16, 2 PM: North Point Library


Harford County Public Library (MD)

Monday, August 8, 3 PM: Edgewood Library

Tuesday, August 9, 3 PM: Bel Air Library

Tuesday, August 9, 6:30 PM: Abingdon Library

Wednesday, August 10, 11 AM: Jarrettsville Library

Wednesday, August 10, 6:30 PM: Wilson Center (In conjunction with HCPL’s Darlington Branch)

Friday, August 12, 10:30 AM: Havre de Grace Library

Saturday, August 13, 1:00 PM: Joppa Library


Frederick County Public Libraries (MD)

Tuesday, June 21, 11 AM: Edward F. Fry Library at Point of Rocks

Tuesday, June 21, 2 PM: Brunswick Library

Tuesday, July 5, 2:30 PM: C. Burr Artz Library, Frederick

Tuesday, July 5, 6:30 PM: Middletown Library

Thursday, July 14, 2:30 PM: Urbana Library


Prince Georges County Memorial Library System (MD)

Monday, July 18, 10:30 AM: Hyattsville Library

Monday, July 18, 1:00 PM: Bladensburg Library


Find the complete calendar of upcoming programs here.












Little Hands Signing @ Greenberries

Congratulations to Greenberries on the opening of their second location!  I am proud to continue to bring parent-child sign language classes to the Columbia location and excited to start up at the new Hampden location!

logo-greenberriesUpcoming classes at greenberries:

Diaper & Potty Signs: Saturday, January 31 at 9:00 am at Greenberries Columbia, 6925 Oakland Mills Rd, Columbia, Maryland 21045

Learn how to use signs throughout your child’s day to foster bonding, stimulate language development, and reduce frustration. Little Hands Signing brings the magic of American Sign Language to you and your child through age-appropriate stories, songs, activities, and games, along with tips and tricks for caregivers on using signs in everyday activities.  It’s an interactive class so please bring your little ones. No minimum or max age!

$14 per adult | $20 per couple   Click here to register.


First Signs: Sunday, February 22, at 11:00 am at Greenberries Baltimore, 915 W 36th St, Baltimore, Maryland 21211

Learn how to use signs throughout your child’s day to foster bonding, stimulate languageafd-107670 development, and reduce frustration. Little Hands Signing brings the magic of American Sign Language to you and your child through age-appropriate stories, songs, activities, and games, along with tips and tricks for caregivers on using signs in everyday activities.  It’s an interactive class so please bring your little ones. No minimum or max age!

$14 per adult | $20 per couple   Click here to register.





Little Hands and Big Hands on the Eastern Shore

I am excited to announce that I will be visiting several libraries and bookstores on the eastern shore of Maryland and Delaware over the next week (full schedule below)!  Join me for a free program to learn more about the benefits of signing with young children, and purchase a signed copy of Little Hands and Big Hands: Children and Adults Signing Together.  The book was featured in a recent edition of the Cape Gazette:

“There are many great books out there about the basics of signing with babies,” says MacMillan. “In ‘Little Hands and Big Hands,’ I wanted to go beyond just the signs and give parents specific, age-appropriate activities they could use to make everyday life with their kids more harmonious while also enhancing early literacy. Many people assume that signing is something you do only until your child is speaking, but in fact there are tremendous benefits to signing with preschoolers as well – signing gives them more tools in their language and communication toolbox. That’s why the book includes activities for kids ages birth to 6.”

Click here to read the entire article.

Schedule of Events:

Little Hands & Big Hands Parties!

Part storytime, part book-signing event, and ALL fun!

Little Hands and Big Hands coverJoin Kathy MacMillan, author of Little Hands and Big Hands: Children and Adults Signing Together (Huron Street Press, 2013), as she shares hands-on activities that parents and caregivers can use every day to improve communication, reduce tantrums, and promote early literacy in children ages birth to six. Books will be available for purchase and signing. Children of all ages are welcome at these family-friendly events!


Thursday, January 16 at 10:30 AM

Marilyn J Praisner Library
14910 Old Columbia Pike
Burtonsville, MD 20866
(240) 773-9460

Saturday, January 25 at 3 PM

Happy Baby Company

558 Lincoln Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15202
(412) 734-1354
**Registration and fees apply.  $15 for one person; $20 for a couple.  Children in laps free.  Each party will receive a free copy of the book.  Register online. 

Monday, January 27 at 10:00 AM

Germantown Library
19840 Century Boulevard
Germantown MD 20874

Tuesday, March 4 at 10:30 AM

Damascus Library

9701 Main Street
Damascus MD 20872


Little Hands Signing in the News

imagesIn conjunction with my “Little Hands Signing: Holiday Signs” program at the Eldersburg Library on Thursday, December 19 at 9:45 am and 10:45 am, the Eldersburg Advocate has published this terrific article by Jeremy Bauer-Wolf about my Little Hands Signing classes:

When Kathy MacMillan was children’s services supervisor of the Eldersburg branch of Carroll County Public Library, she encountered a deaf kindergarten teacher who would come in seeking storybooks for her students. MacMillan decided she wanted to communicate with her, which led her to enroll in a basic American Sign Language course at the Catonsville campus of Baltimore County Community College.
Thirteen years later, after a stint teaching at the Maryland School for the Deaf, MacMillan is a certified ASL interpreter and a published author. She no longer is full-time at the Eldersburg branch, but said she still tries to host programs there monthly as substitute staff, to teach children and adults basic sign language and its benefits.
“I love to go back to teach,” MacMillan said. “Everyone is welcome.”

Click here to read the rest of the article.

How Signing Enhances Early Literacy

Excerpted from Little Hands and Big Hands: Children and Adults Signing Little Hands and Big Hands coverTogether by Kathy MacMillan (Chicago, IL: Huron Street Press, 2013)

Whenever you communicate with your child in an involving way, you are helping her develop early literacy skills.  Because signing encourages communication and engagement, it supports early literacy.  But that’s not the only way signing helps your child develop language and literacy skills.  In her groundbreaking book, Dancing with Words: Signing for Hearing Children’s Literacy (2001), Marilyn Daniels describes her research on using American Sign Language in preschool classrooms with hearing children.  More often than not, her research was disrupted when the parents of her control group (a preschool classroom where the teacher was not using sign language with the students) heard about the amazing gains the signing classrooms in the study were making, and insisted that their children be exposed to sign too!   She found that hearing preschoolers and kindergarteners in the signing groups achieved significantly higher scores on the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test than those who knew no sign.  In addition, teachers in the signing classroom reported that their students were less frustrated, got along better, and were more excited about learning than their previous, non-signing classes.

How did signing with these groups produce such extraordinary results?

  • Sign language supports different learning styles.  Signs provide a visual cue and give kinesthetic learners, who learn best through physical activity, a way to interact with letters and vocabulary.
  • Knowing the names of the letters of the alphabet is an important first step on the road to literacy.  Using the manual alphabet with children helps them learn, remember, and use the letters – long before they have developed the fine motor skills to write them clearly.
  • As children move into the preschool and early elementary years, knowing signs and the manual alphabet allows them to access two different “memory stores” in their brains for reading, spelling, and vocabulary.  For example, if a child cannot identify a letter’s sound, signing it to himself may help jog his memory to make the connection.
  • American Sign Language, like any language, stimulates the language centers of the brain, strengthening synaptic connections and preparing them for further language learning.
  • Young children tend to be more visually attuned than adults, and so signing to them naturally captures their attention.  In addition, our visual sense works best when our eyes are moving, as when one is observing signs.
  • The areas of the brain that control movement develop earlier than those that control speech.  This is why even six to seven month old babies can produce signs.  As children grow up, their motor centers continue to develop ahead of their speech centers, allowing them to express more thoughts more clearly through signs than they can through speech.
  • Adults tend to use writing as a way to process and understand information.  Young children do not have access to this tool yet, but they can use signs to serve the same function.
  • The hands are connected to the brain.  Developing the tactile sense (touch) and the kinesthetic sense (movement) helps the different hemispheres of the brain communicate with one another, allowing for more seamless processing of information.
  • Before children can understand the abstract shapes of letters, they must first develop their proprioceptive system, or a sense of where they are in space.  When a child moves, proprioceptive development is triggered as muscles, joints, and tendons make contact and brain connections develop (Johnson 2007).  The movement of signs naturally encourages proprioceptive development.
  • Signing in itself seems to be intrinsically motivating for children; as one United Kingdom study reports, “Children’s motivation for acquiring basic signing skills does not appear to stem from interaction with Deaf children or adults as much as from the language itself” (Daniels 2003).
  • Signing with children facilitates a sense of play.  Play is far more than just simple entertainment – it is the number one way children learn about the world in the first five years of life.  Play allows children to make connections between concepts and understand how the pieces of the world fit together – and if children figure these things out for themselves, the resulting brain connections last far longer than if they had received direct instruction.

For more about the benefits of signing with young children, as well as fun signing activities to use with children, see Little Hands and Big Hands: Children and Adults Signing Together by Kathy MacMillan (Chicago, IL: Huron Street Press, 2013), available now!

Little Hands Signing Goes Back to Bear

“Little Hands Signing” returns to one of our favorite libraries, the Bear Library in teddy bearWilmington, Delaware, starting next Wednesday!  Each theme-based session introduces ASL through stories, songs, and hands-on activities, combining age-appropriate signs and activities with solid information for caregivers.   Join us for these FREE programs for preschoolers and parents! 

  • Wednesday, October 9, 2013 at 10:30 AM: Fall Signslibrary
  • Wednesday, October 23, 2013 at 10:30 AM: Dress-up Signs
  • Wednesday, November 6, 2013 at 10:30 AM: In My Neighborhood Signs
  • Wednesday, November 20, 2013 at 10:30 AM: Transportation Signs
  • Wednesday, December 4, 2013 at 10:30 AM: Safety Signs
  • Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 10:30 AM: Celebration Signs
  • Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 10:30 AM: Weather Signs
  • Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at 10:30 AM: Feelings Signs
  • Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 10:30 AM: Let’s Move Signs
  • Wednesday, February 19, 2014 at 10:30 AM: Nice Play Signs