Recommended Viewing: The Story Presevation Initiative

Check this out!  The Story Preservation Initiative has teamed with acclaimed Deaf actor and storyteller Ian Sanborn to bring ASL to the stories in its “Learning Lab” archive for K-3. The first 5 are available now!

A white man with a mustache and beard signed FINALLY in ASL. He is wearing a cap and a dark grey shirt and appears against a dark blue background. The captions at the bottom of the screen say :But after a while, the storm began to pass and".

The mission of the Story Preservation Initiative is “to positively impact the lives of K-12 students through the sharing of ideas, the transformative power of story, and the development of educational materials that engage the hearts as well as the minds of young people.” SPI produces original, age-appropriate fiction and nonfiction audio stories coupled with related, hands-on, standards-aligned lesson plans and projects to deepen student engagement for meaningful, real-world relevant learning.

This free online resource is a great tool for families, students, and educators. To access the ASL stories, create your free account here.


My co-author for the Storytime Magic series, Christine Kirker, and I each have new solo books out, so we’ve teamed up for a giveaway! Read about both books below, and enter a giveaway for a prize pack featuring signed copies of both books here. Giveaway ends July 27, 2018.

Nita’s First Signs

Available now from Familius Press!

  • Text by Kathy MacMillan
  • Illustrations by Sara Brezzi
  • ASL/Deaf Culture Advisor: Dr. Barbara Kannapell

American 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. Marlee Matlin, award-winning Deaf actress, author, and activist, says: “Nita’s First Signs demonstrates the value and fun of learning sign language for ALL infants, toddlers children AND adults, regardless of whether they are Deaf or hearing or hard of hearing.”

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25 Projects for Art Explorers

by Christine Kirker 

Available now from ALA Editions!

With schools emphasizing STEM activities for children to meet curriculum goals for standardized testing, nurturing children’s artistic creativity is often given short shrift. Kirker’s fun resource aims to restore the balance, offering more than two dozen projects that will spark children’s interest in art and encourage creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking. Designed for kids aged 5-10, and flexible enough to use in either storytimes or classroom settings, the projects here

  • introduce children to a variety of art techniques, from gouache and watercolor to collage and papermaking, using a curated selection of quality picture books;
  • provide detailed directions for guiding children to experiment with these techniques to create their own projects; and
  • include materials lists adaptable for any budget, capsule biographies of the picture books’ illustrators, programming tips, and links to additional resources.

Kirker’s inventive projects will help library staff and educators reinforce learning, encourage experimentation, and build an appreciation for art and the creative process.

Order now from ALA Editions!


Enter a giveaway for a prize pack featuring signed copies of both books!

Signs of Christmas

The holidays are a great time to use signs with kids – whether they’re traveling to see relatives, staying up late for midnight mass, or missing naps, holiday times can bring changes, and signing promotes security amid the chaos.



Make this ASL holiday wreath by glueing the hands into I-LOVE-YOU signs, numbers to count the days to Christmas, or letters to spell out your name! Find complete directions at

Check out this video guide to simple Christmas signs from My Smart Hands, presented by a mom and two kids of different ages – it’s a great chance to see how those little hands actually form the signs.

Give the Gift of Communication

Parents of children ages birth to six will love the hands-on, make-your-life-easier activities in Little Hands and Big Hands: Children and Adults Signing Together!

Give an autographed copy! Click here to request a free bookplate signed by the author. 

Little Hands and Big Hands coverChildren who can express themselves through signs are far less likely to get frustrated and throw tantrums, and can initiate conversations about topics that interest them, which leads to adults talking more about those topics, which leads to a motivated and interested children absorbing more spoken language, which helps develop spoken language skills! Little Hands and Big Hands will get parents and kids started using signs in favorite rhymes, songs, games, and everyday activities.

Louise Sattler of Signing Families says: “Looking for a great baby gift or one for new parents for the holidays? Try Little Hands and Big Hands – a book that demonstrates the basics of sign language and incorporates creative ideas for families to learn sign together! Easy to follow directions! The games included are perfect for toddlers and preschoolers. Early childhood educators will LOVE this book!”

Order Little Hands and Big Hands: Children and Adults Signing Together today!

Little Hands and Big Hands Sneak Preview: Taking Turns Bounce

Little Hands and Big Hands coverHere’s a fun and engaging bounce rhyme for babies and toddlers from my upcoming book, Little Hands and Big Hands: Children and Adults Signing Together (which you can pre-order here!).

Put your child in your lap and bounce side to side to the rhythm as you say the rhyme.

Taking turns is fun to do

First it’s me (MY-TURN) and then it’s you (YOUR-TURN)

Back and forth and to and fro

MY TURN, YOUR TURN, here we go!

Now let’s do it slowly! (Repeat the rhyme slowly)

Now let’s do it quickly! (Repeat the rhyme quickly)

MY TURN: Tip a sideways L-handshape towards your chest.

MY TURN: Tip a sideways L-handshape towards your chest.

Tip a sideways L-handshape towards the other person.

Tip a sideways L-handshape towards the other person.

A note about the signs: The signs MY-TURN and YOUR-TURN are both wonderful examples of the economy of space and directionality in American Sign Language!  When signing MY-TURN, the palm of the hand should be facing you.  When signing YOUR-TURN, the back of your hand should be facing the person whose turn it is.  You can also show a group of people taking turns by tipping the sign toward each person in turn.

Why it works:

This activity allows your child to experience and internalize language with multiple senses – hearing the words in a rhythmic way, feeling the rhythm as you bounce her along, and seeing the signs.  The back-and-forth nature of the rhyme and the bounce also emphasizes the directionality of the sign, so that when you use it in context, your child will understand it clearly.

See a video tutorial for this bounce here.

Check out Little Hands and Big Hands: Children and Adults Signing Together for lots more fun ideas to promote early literacy through signing!

Baby See ‘n Sign series (Kronz Kids Productions): Volume 1 (2001), Volume 2 (2003)

These videos are hosted by Johanna Larsen-Muhr, who is a CODA (child of
deaf adults) and a native signer.  A variety of youngsters demonstrate the
signs, which are well-chosen for young children and are repeated several times.  The first volume offers an especially useful segment presented by Larsen-Muhr that offers additional contextual information for parents about using ASL with babies.

Baby Sign Language Basics by Monta Z. Briant (Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, 2004)

This small, thick book – designed to toss into a diaper bag – lives up to its title with short, readable chapters detailing the benefits and basics of using sign language with babies, often illustrated with examples from the author’s own experience.  The bulk of the book is made up of clear black and white photos showing 60 signs, including 10 “lifesaver signs” to start with.  A great introduction that enlightens without overwhelming.

Baby’s First Signs series by Kim Votry (Gallaudet University Press): Baby’s First Signs (2001), More Baby’s First Signs (2001), Out for a Walk (2003), A Book of Colors (2003)

These colorful board books feature bold illustrations of everyday objects and activities, accompanied by clear pencil drawings demonstrating the signs for each.  A great introduction to ASL for deaf and hearing children alike.

Let’s Sign!: Every Baby’s Guide to Communicating with Grownups by Kelly Ault. (Houghton Mifflin, 2005)

After a brief and informative introduction detailing the benefits of using sign language with babies, this sturdy little picture book presents three stories: “Mealtime”, “Playtime”, and “Bedtime”.  Each simple story follows a child through a daily activity, with the story appearing on the left hand side of each spread, and an illustration and description of one or two associated signs on the right. A handy index of signs makes this a great reference for parents as well.

My First Signs illustrated by Annie Kubler. (Child’s Play, 2005)

Featuring bright, child-friendly illustrations, this oversized board book
introduces 43 signs for activities, objects, and people in a baby’s world.    Each illustration is accompanied by the English equivalent and a brief description of how the sign is made, and tips for parents on introducing the signs appear at the bottom of each page.  

Sign With Your Baby by Joseph Garcia.  Northlight Communications (2002).

Filled with anecdotes, practical guidelines, and humor, this classic book offers an effective way to teach parents and infants how to communicate through sign.

Signing Time! series (Two Little Hands Productions):
Volume I: My First Signs (2002),
Volume 2: Playtime Signs (2002),
Volume 3: Everyday Signs (2002),
Volume 4: Feelings and Fun (2004),
Volume 5: ABC Signs (2004),
Volume 6: My Favorite Things (2004),
Volume 7:Leah’s Farm (2005),
Volume 8:The Great Outdoors (2005),
Volume 9:The Zoo Train (2005) and many more.

Available on both DVD and VHS, this is hands-down the best sign language
series for young children.  Each segment includes both hearing and deaf kids signing simple signs, and review segments featuring fun songs and stories reinforce vocabulary.  Excellent segments geared to parents offer information about such topics as ASL grammar and tips for using the program with young

Simple Signs (Viking, 1995) and More Simple Signs (Viking, 1998) by Cindy Wheeler.

Especially appropriate for preschoolers, these colorful books combine kid-
friendly concept illustrations with line drawings clearly depicting sign

Sign and Singalong Books by Annie Kubler. Child’s Play, 2004.
Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear
Baa, Baa Black Sheep
Itsy Bitsy Spider

These fun board books feature illustrations of babies using the ASL signs
associated with these popular songs.  Some gestures are used as well, but the difference between the two is clearly delineated by the captions.

Teach Your Tot to Sign: The Parents’ Guide to American Sign Language by Stacy A. Thompson. (Gallaudet University Press, 2005)

With descriptions, tips, and clear line drawings of over 500 ASL signs featuring concepts from a young child’s world, this book is the perfect resource for parents and toddlers ready to move beyond the very basics.

Baby Signing for Dummies by Jennifer Watson. (Wiley, 2006).

Watson, who is not fluent in ASL herself but signs with both of her hearing
children, gives a great introduction to the hows and whys of signing with
children, including the reasons to use ASL instead of invented signs.  With clear illustrations of many of the signs relevant to a child’s world, this is a great book for anyone who wants to get started on signing with their little ones.

Baby Signing: How  to Talk With Your Baby in American Sign Language by Andrea Fixell and Ted Stafford. (Penguin, 2006.)

Perfect for the parent who is already convinced of the merits of signing with
babies and is ready to get down to the signing itself, this stand-up guide
features full-page photos of babies signing, along with a page for each sign with a description and tips for introducing and reinforcing the sign in context.

Teaching Signs for Baby Minds Series. (Signs for Intelligence, 2007).
Volume 1: Everyday Signs
Volume 2: Concepts & Combinations
Volume 3: Dictionary & Alphabet
Created by and featuring Deaf mother Missy Keast, these DVDs present basic signs for babies, toddlers, and parents, along with cogent explanations of the hows and whys of signing with young children.  All information is presenting  by Keast in American Sign Language with English voiceover.  The Concepts & Combinations DVD will be especially useful to parents who want to take signing a step further with their children, as it gives examples of how to go from discrete signs to full ASL sentences (such as “Please help clean up” and “Want to go for a walk?”).  The Dictionary & Alphabet volume contains 150 additional signs presented in alphabetical order by English word, as well as the manual alphabet and slow-motion and regular-speed demos of how to fingerspell the forty
most popular children’s names.