Why Sign With Babies and Toddlers?

There are so many reasons, but the most important one is: it just makes life easier for you and your child! Let me break it down for you:

NITA’S DAY: MORE SIGNS FOR BABIES AND PARENTS comes out May 12, 2020 from Familius Press! Preorder now at Workman.com and get 20% off when you use promo code BOOKS!


Register for the Little Hands Signing Professional Development Storytimes series!

Perfect for the librarian or teacher stuck at home trying to juggle professional development with childcare! It’s continuing education you can share with your child!

Little Hands Signing Professional Development Storytimes

Join us for weekly interactive “annotated storytimes” that teaches basic American Sign Language vocabulary and demonstrate how to use the signs in storytime activities. Each session will focus on specific vocabulary:

  • April 29, 11 AM-12 PM Eastern: First Signs
  • May 6, 11 AM-12 PM Eastern: Feelings Signs
  • May 13, 11 AM-12 PM Eastern: Colors Signs
  • May 20, 11 AM-12 PM Eastern: Animal Signs
  • May 27, 11 AM-12 PM Eastern: Family Signs

Children of participants are welcome to join for the first 40 minutes. The final 20 minutes will consist of lecture and Q&A. Presenter Kathy MacMillan is a nationally certified American Sign Language interpreter, librarian, and storyteller. She is the author of the Little Hands Signing series from Familius Press, as well as Little Hands and Big Hands: Children and Adults Signing Together (Huron Street Press) as well as many other resources books for librarians and educators. Certificate of completion for each webinar available upon request with successful completion of post-test.

$50 per person per webinar. $200 for 5-webinar series. Group rates available.

Add-ons available:

  • 30-minute one-on-one coaching session: $30. A one-on-one Zoom session with Kathy MacMillan to receive individualized feedback on your planned signing materials for storytime or the classroom – planned around your schedule! Includes recording access. Must be used within 6 months of purchase.
  • Individualized video feedback: $20.Submit a video (up to 10 min) demonstrating your planned signing activities for storytime and receive individualized feedback on sign choices, production, and more from Kathy MacMillan via return video within 14 days. Must be used within 6 months of purchase.

Webinars are presented in spoken English. To request accommodations, contact info@storiesbyhand.com.

Register now!

Individual webinars:

Register now for Creating Outstanding Online Storytimes Webinar

Creating Outstanding Online Storytimes Workshop

A 90-minute workshop, Friday, May 1, 2020, 10:00am Eastern/9:00 Central/8:00 Mountain/7:00 Pacific

$60 per person; discounts available for ALA Members and groups

With many libraries currently closed to the public, library staff are turning to online storytimes as a way to provide quality programming for young patrons.

Join veteran storyteller Kathy MacMillan to explore the fundamental differences between online and in-person storytimes and best practices to bring early literacy programming into an online environment. Learn how to plan video-friendly programs, how to keep your programming interactive even when you don’t have live feedback from storytime attendees, and how to manage external stresses such as technological glitches and internal stresses such as camera fright.

After participating in this event, you will:

  • Understand the fundamental differences in approach to online and in-person storytimes
  • Have at least three concrete strategies for making online storytimes interactive
  • Be able to implement strategies for dealing with external and internal stresses

Register now!


Quarantine Specials!: Updated Online Storytime and Professional Development Offerings

Book an interactive session and celebrate American Sign Language through stories, songs, and more – all while social distancing in the comfort of your own home!

For Kids and Families

For Kids and Families

Kathy MacMillan presents interactive theme-based classes that combine age-appropriate signs and activities with follow-up handouts and crafts sent electronically. Sessions take place online via Zoom with link provided by presenter. Program content will be tailored to age of participants. Check my availability calendar and identify your preferred dates and times.


  • 45-minute session for up to 10 participants: $75
  • 45-minute session for 11-50 participants: $100
  • 60-minute session for up to 10 participants: $100
  • 60-minute session for 11-50 participants: $150
  • Access to recording for 3 months following live session: $100

Select from the many Little Hands Signing theme sessions available.

Policies and Booking Information


Live Online Storytimes for Libraries

Looking to bring exciting, interactive content to your patrons? Kathy MacMillan presents interactive, high-energy online storytimes that teach basic American Sign Language for all ages. Sessions can take place via the live social media platform of your choice or online via Zoom and recording access is included. Program content will be tailored to age of participants. Check my availability calendar and identify your preferred dates and times.


  • 15-minute live storytime: $200
  • each additional 15-minute live storytime: $100
  • 30-minute live storytime:  $350
  • each additional 30-minute live storytime: $200

Select from the many themes available, or contact me about creating an online storytime to meet your library’s needs!

Policies and Booking Information


Online Professional Development for Librarians

Online Professional Development for Librarians and Educators

The following webinars offered through the American Library Association. Please contact ALA Editions Webinars to schedule a session for your library or consortium:

  • Creating Outstanding Online Storytimes (90 minutes): Join veteran storyteller Kathy MacMillan to explore the fundamental differences between online and in-person storytimes and best practices to bring early literacy programming into an online environment. Learn how to plan video-friendly programs, how to keep your programming interactive even when you don’t have live feedback from storytime attendees, and how to manage external stresses such as technological glitches and internal stresses such as camera fright
  • Serving Deaf Patrons in the Library, Parts 1 and 2 (each 90 minutes): This two-part online workshop offers an overview of the different ways deaf people communicate, strategies for meeting your library’s legal obligation to serve deaf and hard-of-hearing patrons, strategies for communicating with a deaf or hard-of-hearing person in the library, basic library signs, and tips for finding, hiring, and working with interpreters.
  • Liven Up Baby and Toddler Storytimes with Sign Language (90 minutes): Signing with young children of any hearing ability fosters bonding, stimulates language development, and reduces frustration for caregiver and child. Learn how to use sign language in storytimes to broaden their appeal and make them more participative. In this interactive workshop, Kathy MacMillan—American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter, librarian, and storyteller—will use video examples to provide easy-to-learn signs that can be retaught and incorporated into stories, rhymes, and songs. You will be able to use the skills learned in this workshop to create programs that will help you, your staff, and parents communicate better with children.

The following webinars are offered directly through Stories By Hand. Sessions take place online through Zoom. Prices are for live session for up to 50 people; 3 months of recording access may be added for $100 per workshop. Please see Policies and Booking Information to schedule these webinars:

  • Little Hands Signing Professional Development Storytime (1 hour webinar; $250): An interactive theme-based “annotated storytime” that teaches basic ASL vocabulary and demonstrates how to use the signs in storytime activities. Children of participants are welcome to join for the first 40 minutes. The final 20 minutes will consist of lecture and Q&A.Choose from 5 different vocabulary themes: Feelings Signs, First Signs, Colors Signs, Family Signs, or Animal Signs.
  • Basic American Sign Language for Library Staff (2 hour webinar; $350): The deaf patron approaches the reference or circulation desk…but you don’t panic. Thanks to this interactive workshop, you know the basic of how to communicate with deaf and hard-of-hearing patrons and can introduce yourself and help the patron navigate the library.
  • Create a Calmer Classroom with American Sign Language (2 hour webinar; $350): No matter what age you work with, using basic American Sign Language with students can enhance student understanding, address different learning styles, and create calm. You’ll leave this session armed with a toolbox of signs to start using right away.
  • Hands-on Storytimes (2 hour webinar; $350): This presentation will cover the benefits of using basic ASL with all children, and offer a variety of simple techniques for making your programs more fun, educational, and participative through the use of signs with audiences of all ages. Participants will leave armed with a vocabulary of very basic signs to start using right away.
  • Little Hands Signing in the Classroom (2 hour workshop; $350): Studies show that using American Sign Language with hearing children can improve vocabulary, reading comprehension, defuse behavior issues, support a variety of learning styles, and increase overall interest in learning! Learn the fascinating reasons behind this phenomenon as well as strategies for incorporating into your classroom.
  • Sign, Baby, Sign! (2 hour workshop; $350): Babies can sign long before they can speak, and research shows that using sign language with both hearing and deaf babies imparts language benefits that can last a lifetime. Learn the benefits of using signs with babies and toddlers, as well as ways to incorporate signs into your program and educate parents in baby sign. Participants will leave with a basic vocabulary of signs to use right away.
  • Working with a Sign Language Interpreter (1 hour webinar; $250): Communicating through a third party can be stressful for everyone involved – but it doesn’t have to be that way! Participants in this workshop will develop an understanding of the interpreter’s role, and will learn how to effectively communicate through an interpreter.

Check my availability calendar to identify your preferred dates and times.

Policies and Booking Information

and Educators

Policies and Booking Information


Payment: Sessions booked by individuals will not be confirmed until payment is received. Individual payment may be made online via PayPal, Square, or Venmo. Institutions may pay by check or credit card.

Cancellations: Sessions cancelled with less than 24 hours notice for any reason will be billed in full.

Platform: Unless otherwise agreed, sessions will be conducted online via Zoom. Presenter is not responsible for technical difficulties at the receiving end. 

Photos and Recording: Unless otherwise agreed upon, recording is not permitted without the express permission of the presenter and all attendees. 3 months of recording access may be added to the live event for $100. Live Online Storytimes for Libraries include recording permission and access.

Interpreters: The presenter can present in either spoken English or American Sign Language. If an interpreter is needed, it is the responsibility of those booking the session to work out those logistics prior to the session.

Proceeding with contractual agreement implies acceptance of terms.

To book an appearance:

  • Check my availability calendar and identify your preferred dates and times.
  • Fill out the contact form here. Include your contact information, estimated number of program participants, and choices of dates/times.
  • I will check dates/times and reply to you with a confirmation.
  • Please read the policies above carefully. A cancellation fee will apply as described above.


Here’s NITA’S FIRST SIGNS, presented in American Sign Language, as part of #OperationASLStorytime and hosted by D-PAN.TV: The Sign Language Channel.

(English captioning coming soon for the signing impaired.)

There are SO many wonderful ASL story videos in this collection. Don’t miss my very favorite one: a retelling of PETE’S A PIZZA by William Steig in ASL, English voiceover, and dramatic pizza play.

Keeping Online Storytimes Engaging

With so many libraries closed to the public, it seems like everyone is offering online storytimes!  I was asked to share my tips for keeping online storytimes interactive, so here you go!
When presenting virtually where you can’t see your audience, it’s really hard to adjust your approach and pace when you are not getting any response, so it’s really important to remember the following. (And pro tip: sticky notes on the side of your monitor with reminders work really well!)
  1. Slow down. Even if it feels like you are already speaking slowly, slow it down. Most kids can’t listen as fast as we grownups like to talk.
  2. Make eye contact with the camera. Yes, this feels weird. It might help to put a stuffed animal or a picture of a favorite kiddo right above or next to the camera, so you can make eye contact with that.
  3. Allow time for responses. No, more time than that. More. In person, adults generally only give kids one second of silence before they fill it in for them. When you don’t have the kid in front of you, it’s tempting to just plow ahead. But seriously, give the kids time to answer, participate, copy the movement, whatever. Yes, you will feel like Dora the Explorer blinking at the camera in silence. That’s okay!  There’s a reason that developmentally appropriate kids’ shows use this tactic. It encourages a response and it allows kids of all different learning styles to take the information in.
  4. Use repetition to create more space for understanding. While repetition on its own is useful, because it reinforces information, it’s also useful because it allows kids (and parents) more time with the material. For example, when introducing an ASL sign, I always break it down and explain what I am doing as I show it multiple times. Kids may or may not be actually listening to what I am saying in that explanation, based on their learning style, but the time it takes to explain it keeps visual and auditory focus on the sign and allows everyone the time to learn it.
  5. Be explicit about how you want children (and grownups) to participate. Some kids will already be clapping their hands or hooting like owls or whatever, but some will need the storyteller to say it explicitly in the absence of the peer modeling of seeing others do it. And many grownups will need the extra push even more!
  6. Give grownups clear suggestions for how to tie storytime activities to everyday life with their children. This is something we do anyway, but now that many parents are their children’s exclusive language and literacy models, and many of them are overwhelmed, it’s important that we give them solid suggestions that show how easy it is to incorporate literacy into their daily routines.
  7. Learn from the pros!  Children’s TV shows have been incorporating these strategies for a long time. Mr. Rogers is of course the gold standard, but a modern one that I love is the Baltimore-based Danny Joe’s Treehouse, which incorporates a deep knowledge of child development with online engagement techniques.
  8. American Sign Language lends itself well to online storytimes, because it lends a visual and kinetic aspect to storytimes that can still be contained within the camera frame. For lots of resources on incorporating ASL into your storytimes, see my resource page for signing in storytime or the classroom.

(This post has been cross-posted to StorytimeStuff.net)

Click, bid, and support Deaf Camps, Inc.!

The Deaf Camps, Inc. 2020 Online Auction is open for bids through April 15! Lots of cool stuff for writers – including signed copies of my books, SHE SPOKE and NITA’S FIRST SIGNS (along with an adorable handmade Nita doll pictured below)! You can also find many handmade items,  gift certificates, event tickets, and more! All proceeds support Deaf Camps, Inc’s 2020 scholarship program.

Deaf Camps, Inc. is an organization close to my heart. I have been volunteering with this nonprofit since 2001. It is an entirely volunteer-run nonprofit whose mission is to create fun, safe, communication-rich camp for deaf and hard-of-hearing children and children learning American Sign Language. Please check it out, bid, and share widely!



Bid now at https://tinyurl.com/DCIauction2020!

More about Deaf Camps, Inc.:

deaf camps inc logoDeaf Camps, Inc. is an entirely volunteer-run non-profit organization dedicated to providing fun, safe, communication-rich camps that promote the physical, spiritual, and social development of Deaf/hard of hearing children and children learning American Sign Language.



The DCI Online Auction is run through CharityAuctionsToday.com. A credit card is required to register and bid.


Recommended Reading: SHOW ME A SIGN by Ann Clare LeZotte

I just finished reading an Advance Reader Copy of Show Me a Sign by Deaf author Ann Clare LeZotte, and I couldn’t wait to tell the world about it! The book comes out March 3, 2020 from Scholastic, but you can preorder it from IndieBound, Amazon, or Barnes and Noble. More information and my complete gushing below!

Show Me a SignShow Me a Sign by Ann Clare LeZotte
Summary: Mary Lambert has always felt safe and protected on her beloved island of Martha’s Vineyard. Her great-grandfather was an early English settler and the first deaf islander. Now, over a hundred years later, many people there – including Mary – are deaf, and nearly everyone can communicate in sign language. Mary has never felt isolated. She is proud of her lineage. But recent events have delivered winds of change. Mary’s brother died, leaving her family shattered. Tensions over land disputes are mounting between English settlers and the Wampanoag people. And a cunning young scientist has arrived, hoping to discover the origin of the island’s prevalent deafness. His maniacal drive to find answers soon renders Mary a “live specimen” in a cruel experiment. Her struggle to save herself is at the core of this penetrating and poignant novel that probes our perceptions of ability and disability.

The history of Martha’s Vineyard Sign Language has fascinated me ever since I first devoured Nora Groce’s seminal ethnography Everyone Here Spoke Sign Language: Hereditary Deafness on Martha’s Vineyard (Harvard University Press). Not only was MVSL one of the building blocks of American Sign Language, but the history of Martha’s Vineyard showed a wonderful example of what can happen when everyone has equal access to communication.

Ann Clare LeZotte brings the island community to life, and – no doubt because she is a Deaf ASL user herself – sidesteps the awkwardness that hearing authors often bring to showing signed interactions on the page. The result is a story that flows as naturally as the signs off the hands of deaf and hearing islanders alike – a story of a tight-knit community where everyone is valued, and the intrusion of the outside hearing world that only sees deaf islanders as specimens to study. LeZotte managed to incorporate lots of historical information – about the history of the island, about the early history of deaf education in America, about sign languages themselves – without ever letting the facts overwhelm the story and characters. What impressed me most, though, was the way the author wove in marginalized voices that, in most historical fiction like this, would have been overlooked – the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head, the black freedmen on the island, the fact that the early schools for the deaf were segregated. This too, is done with a deft touch, as protagonist Mary reckons with the way the larger hearing world views her and her community, and learns how her own people have marginalized others. Anyone who dismisses this book as “niche” is missing out – in fact, it’s a big-hearted adventure and family story that will provoke reflections and discussions about intersectionality from writers and readers alike.

As an ASL interpreter, librarian, and book reviewer, I have reviewed a LOT of books about ASL and Deaf Culture over the years. There have been a lot of “well, at least now there’s a book on this topic….better than nothing, I guess.” So to have this book to recommend, that’s THIS good, AND by a Deaf author…all I can say is:

I received an Advance Reader Copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

View all my reviews

Register now for Sign Language for Children in Storytime or in the Classroom eCourse

Sign Language for Children in Storytime or in the Classroom: A Practical Guide eCourse

Instructor: Kathy MacMillan, NIC, M.L.S.

Asynchronous eCourse beginning Monday, March 2, 2020 and continuing for 6 weeks (Participants will have 12 weeks to complete course materials.)

$250.00 (discounts available for ALA members and bulk registrations)

Click here to register.

Estimated Hours of Learning: 36 (Certificate of Completion available upon request)

American Sign Language is most commonly used in storytimes for babies, but the applications can go much further. In this new 6-week eCourse, Sign Language expert Kathy MacMillan explores the benefits of signing with all children. In addition to learning basic American Sign Language (ASL) vocabulary appropriate for use with children in library and classroom settings, you will also learn to teach stories, songs, and other activities that incorporate ASL. MacMillan provides you with a linguistic and cultural context to help make your programming more accessible.

After participating in this eCourse, you will:

  • Have a working knowledge of approximately 180 signs (introduced through video)
  • Create two storytime/classroom activities using the featured vocabulary that you can implement in your storytimes
  • Understand relevant aspects of child development and early literacy
  • Understand signing in a linguistic and cultural context

Feedback from past participants:

“One of the most well-organized and rewarding professional development courses I’ve taken.”

“Kathy is an amazing instructor. She made learning online very easy and comfortable. She replied quickly when students had questions and she responded with feedback with videos to help sign better.”

“I am amazed. It couldn’t have gone better. I came away learning many signs I can use and gained some helpful information for my storytimes.”

“The instructor was phenomenal, and I am already incorporating course work into everyday interactions in the library. Everything in the course is relevant and beneficial.”

Register now for Sign Language for Children in Storytime or in the Classroom: A Practical Guide eCourse

The Great American Sign Language Mystery


Homeschool Connection: The Great American Sign Language Mystery

Tuesday, February 11, 2020 at 1 PM

Lewes Public Library, 111 Adams Ave., Lewes, DE 19958

Where did American Sign Language come from? Flex your fingers and join in the hunt for clues as sign language detective Kathy MacMillan leads silly stories, songs, and more. Kathy is the author of Nita’s First Signs and Little Hands and Big Hands: Children and Adults Signing Together. Please register all attending this event, students and their accompanying adults at https://delawarelibraries.libcal.com/event/5237724

Homeschool Connection is the Lewes Public Library’s monthly program for K – 5th grade homeschool students. We host a variety of presenters on different topics, and include a library skills extension for each class. Check in the kids’ room for the schedule of presenters.

This program is supported, in part, by a grant from the Delaware Division of the Arts, a state agency, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts. The Division promotes Delaware arts events on DelawareScene.com.