Picture Books About American Sign Language and Deaf Culture

The following resources are ones that I personally recommend and are not a comprehensive list of available resources on this topic.

 

The William Hoy Story by Nancy Churnin.  Albert Whitman and Company, 2017.

William Ellsworth Hoy has long been a hero of the Deaf community – a record-setting baseball player who played for multiple National League teams and changed the way that baseball was played. Churnin’s approachable text and Tuya’s expressive illustrations take readers along with William’s struggles to be taken seriously by the hearing world – which, in the 1880s, didn’t believe a deaf player could amount to much. William proves the critics wrong through determination, grit, and talent, and soon teams and fans are clamoring for him. Many biographies of Hoy get hung up on his nickname, “Dummy”, which was a common term applied to deaf people at the time, but Churnin wisely keeps the focus on Hoy’s accomplishments throughout the story, saving such details, with contextualizing comments, for an informative afterward. A timeline of Hoy’s life offers more details for baseball lovers.

 

Dad and Me in the Morning by Patricia Lakin. Whitman, 1994.

Early one morning, when it is still dark, a young boy wakes to his special alarm clock. He puts on his hearing aid and his clothes, then goes to wake his father. Together they walk down to the beach. Jacob cannot hear, so he and his father sign or lipread or just squeeze each other’s hands. This poetic story is beautifully illustrated in glowing watercolors.

 

Nita’s First Signs by Kathy MacMillan. Familius Press, 2018.

A simple board book story about Nita, a young child who communicates with her family using ASL. The pages slide open to teach 10 basic ASL signs.

 

The Moses books by Isaac Millman (Farrar Straus & Giroux): Moses Goes to a Concert (1998), Moses Goes to School (2000) , Moses Goes to the Circus (2003), Moses Sees a Play (2004)

These excellent picture books incorporate basic sign language instruction into stories of a little boy named Moses, who is deaf. The illustrations are child- friendly and clearly depict the signs, which are related to the story. Of special note is Moses Goes to School, which offers a look at everyday life in a school for the deaf.

 

Hands and Hearts by Donna Jo Napoli. Abrams, 2014.

On the surface, this is a simple, lyrical tale of mother and daughter spending a day at the beach, but every bit of it is built around the things their hands do: waving hello to the waves, digging in the sand, making a tent, and even being “Yak yak hands/yak yak fingers/telling as we run/out the gate down the path.”  It’s a subtle reference to mother and child signing, and indeed, each page is accompanied by illustrations teaching a relevant sign such as RUN, WATER, or SUN.

 

Handy Stories to Read and Sign by Donna Jo Napoli and Doreen DeLuca. Gallaudet University Press, 2009.

Simple seasonal stories designed for children whose first language is ASL.

 

Story Time With Signs & Rhymes series by Dawn Babb Prochovnic. Abdo.

Each of the 16 books in this series focuses on a different topic, from animals to food to school signs, and introduces basic American Sign Language through a fun rhyming story and colorful illustrations. More information here. 

 

The Handmade Alphabet by Laura Rankin. Dial Books, 1991.

To celebrate the expressiveness of ASL, artist Laura Rankin presents her striking interpretation of the manual alphabet. Here, the hand that signs “V” holds a valentine, “I” points to delicate icicles, and “O” dangles a shining ornament.

 

The Handmade Counting Book by Laura Rankin. Dial Books, 1998.

Pairs American Sign Language signs for the numbers 1-20, 25, 50, 75, and 100 with beautifully drawn objects.

 

The Garden Wall by Phyllis Limbacher Tildes. Charlesbridge, 2006.

Tim is taken aback when he learns that his new neighbor is not only a girl, but is also deaf. When he is assigned to work with her to perform a fable at school, he’s nervous – but as he gets to know Maria, their performance of “The Hearing Country Mouse and the Deaf City Mouse” comes together, and they become friends. This story introduces some basic sign language as well as information about the technology used by Deaf people.

 

The Printer by Myron Uhlberg. Peachtree, 2003.

This unique picture book presents the tale of a deaf printer who, through the use of American Sign Language, is able to communicate with other deaf printers over the roar of the printing presses, and save their hearing counterparts from a fire.