Library Signs Resources

Want to learn some simple signs you can use to make serving Deaf patrons more successful?  Check out these resources!

Practice Videos by Kathy MacMillan on YouTube
Manners Signs
Library Signs 1
Library Signs 2
Library Signs 3

Library Signs Quiz Video

Library Signs Quiz Video Answer Sheet

Handouts to go with Practice Videos:
Library Signs (Vocabulary – Video 2)

Library Signs (Sentences – Videos 1 and 3)


Interested in more in-depth instruction on this topic? Check out my professional development eCourses from the American Library Association.

Seeing Voices

Seeing Voices: A Journey Into the World of the Deaf by Oliver Sacks. New Seeing Voices coverYork: HarperCollins, 1989.

There’s a reason this book is a classic in the field of Deaf Studies: Sacks weaves together history, linguistics, and a deep understanding of culture to create a compelling introduction to American Sign Language and Deaf culture for the uninitiated.

Developmental Milestones in American Sign Language

If you are signing with your baby, sometimes it can be hard to gauge your child’s progress since most language development benchmarks tend to focus on spoken language only.  The Ontario Infant Hearing Program offers comprehensive lists of developmental milestones from birth to 24 months in both sign language and spoken language on its website here.  This is a great tool to help parents and educators learn what to expect from their little signers at various ages!

How to Communicate with Someone who is Deaf

  • Don’t assume that every deaf person speechreads. Speechreading is a very difficult skill to master, and many deaf people don’t find it effective beyond common phrases such as “How are you?”
  • Keep your face and lips visible.
  • Maintain eye contact.
  • Make sure the deaf person is looking at you before you speak, sign, or gesture.
  • Speak naturally. Don’t exaggerate your mouth movements or speak too slowly. And don’t shout!
  • Be careful not to stand with your back to a window or other light source – this makes speechreading and getting information from facial expressions difficult.
  • Offer pen and paper to write notes back and forth, but be aware that English is a second language for many deaf people. When writing notes, use short sentences and plain language, and avoid idioms and slang.
  • Repeat the question to make sure you understand.
  • To get the attention of the deaf person, tap his or her shoulder or arm or wave in his or her line of sight.
  • ATTITUDE is the most important thing! Most deaf people will appreciate your efforts to communicate.

Signing with Young Children

Why Do It?

  • Children can learn to sign long before they have the ability to speak. Using sign language with your baby can reduce frustration for both of you. Your baby can tell you exactly what he wants!
  • Children exposed to sign language early in life will not only find it easy to learn ASL later, they will find it easier to learn ANY language later.
  • Early exposure to language may increase I.Q., social skills, and create deeper bonds between parent and child.
  • Sign language is not only good for your baby, it’s fun! And it’s not just for babies either – keep up the learning as your child begins to speak, and you and your child can develop a second language together.

Tips for Signing with Your Child

  • Teach the signs for everyday objects and activities first. Use the objects to reinforce the signs often, until your child begins to sign it back. Remember, they can understand you before they sign it back, so keeping using it.
  • If the child begins to sign back, reward him or her with lots of smiles and hugs and kisses.
  • Be consistent. Make sure you use the same sign each time for the same object.
  • Use your face. 80% of ASL is on your face and body, NOT your hands. The sign “HAPPY” doesn’t mean “happy” unless you’re smiling!
  • Accept your baby’s signing style. Babies won’t always make a sign correctly the first time they sign it, just like they won’t speak a word correctly the first time they speak it. Keep signing it the correct way and your baby will soon learn.
  • Reinforce signs throughout the day to help you both remember them. You can learn signs from books, though videos and live people are usually a lot easier. See the other side of this sheet for great resources to help you both learn.
  • There are lots of places to sign! You can use sign language at home, in the car, at the park, while reading stories. You can also make the signs in different places to help your baby understand. Sometimes sign it on her, on the book, or on yourself.
  • When using signs with your baby, it’s a good idea to use American Sign Language. There’s a big difference between American Sign Language, which is a whole language, and Signed English, which is just a manual code to represent English words. By using ASL, you’re giving your child (and yourself) a chance to learn another language!

Library Signs Resources

Want to learn some simple signs you can use to make serving Deaf patrons more successful?  Check out these resources!

Practice Videos by Kathy MacMillan on YouTube
Manners Signs
Library Signs 1
Library Signs 2
Library Signs 3

Library Signs Quiz Video


Library Signs Quiz Video Answer Sheet

Handouts to go with Practice Videos:
Library Signs (Vocabulary – Video 2)

Library Signs (Sentences – Videos 1 and 3)

Children’s Novels About ASL and Deafness

Deaf Child Crossing by Marlee Matlin. (Simon and Schuster, 2002)

When Cindy, who is hearing, moves in down the street from Megan, who is deaf, the nine-year-olds quickly become best friends. Megan wears hearing aids and lip-reads, but the girls become even closer as Cindy begins to learn sign language. Problems crop up when her attempts to be helpful offend Megan’s sense of independence, and things get even worse at summer camp, where they meet another deaf girl, Lizzie.

Nobody’s Perfect by Marlee Matlin. (Simon and Schuster, 2002)

Megan can’t wait for her positively purple birthday party, but her perfect plans get derailed when a new girl, Alexis, joins her class and rebuffs Megan’s invitation and brushes off all of Megan’s attempts to be friendly.  When Megan teaches Alexis’s autistic brother some basic sign language, it opens up communication with both him and Alexis.

Leading Ladies by Marlee Matlin. (Simon and Schuster, 2007)

Rivalries abound when Megan’s fourth-grade class puts on a production of “The Wizard of Oz” and she has her heart set on playing Dorothy…but so does her friend Lizzie.

Gaps in Stone Walls by John Neufeld. (Athenuem, 1996)

In the late 19th century, hereditary deafness affected at least 1/5 of the population of Chilmark, a town on Martha’s Vineyard. Among this group is Merry Skiffe, an artistic 12-year-old whose peaceful life unravels when wealthy miser Ned Nickerson is murdered on a dark road one Saturday night and Merry finds herself among the four residents of Chilmark who have no alibi.

Apple is my Sign by Mary Riskind. (Houghton Mifflin, 1981)

A 10-year-old boy returns to his parents’ apple farm for the holidays after his first term at a school for the deaf in Philadelphia.


Picture Books About ASL and Deafness

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.

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 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)

The acclaimed author of “The Handmade Alphabet” now presents a book that pairs American Sign Language signs for the numbers 1-20, 25, 50, 75, and 100 with beautifully drawn objects.

Handtalk Zoo by George Ancona & Mary Beth. (Four Winds Press, 1989)

As they make their way through the zoo, a group of children sign and fingerspell the names of the animals. In addition to signing animal names, the telling of time is expressed with the signing of numbers 1–12 in a clocklike shape. Vibrant color photographs depict the action of the story and the signing, while black-and-white insets show the fingerspelling.

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.

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.

Secret Signs: Along the Underground Railroad by Anita Riggio. (Boyds Mills Press, 1997)

In the mid-1800s, Luke and his mother help support themselves by making panoramic eggs of maple sugar. When a man bursts into their home and accuses them of hiding slaves, Luke’s mother denies the charges–although she is planning to meet her contact on the Underground Railroad that very day. With his mother held at home, Luke, who is deaf, must use his resources and creative talents to help make the connection.

Sesame Street Sign Language ABC with Linda Bove (Random House, 1985)

A perennial favorite, this book offers both colorful illustrations and crisp, full- color photos of deaf actress Linda Bove performing the signs.

Great Websites for Signing with Young Children

Sign With Your Baby    Dr. Joseph Garcia’s official website features discussion groups, products, and the latest research showing how signing benefits both deaf and hearing babies.

Signing Savvy  This online video dictionary of signs is clear, accurate, and easy to use. Though the free access is limited to five searches per day, you can access as many signs as you want through the alphabetical index.

Signing Time The online home of the highly recommended “Signing Time” DVD series features downloadable song lyrics, FAQ pages, and lots of activities for kids.

Try Your Hand at This!: Easy Ways to Incorporate Sign Language into Your Programs

Try Your Hand at This! Cover imageby Kathy MacMillan (Scarecrow Press, 2006)

A user-friendly guide for librarians and other personnel involved in library programming. From how to set up sign language programming for all ages to dealing with interpreters, publicizing programming to the public and the deaf community, and evaluating and improving the library’s sign language collection, Kathy MacMillan speaks with the voice of experience. She excels at dispelling the numerous myths surrounding deafness and sign language…this handbook is an indispensable tool for all library personnel looking to reach out to the deaf and hard-of-hearing communities.

Reference and Research Book News says: “…guides library programming personnel through the common pitfalls of new learners of ASL and the background knowledge necessary to introduce ASL in context, and offers practical information on establishing community partnerships, working with interpreters, and marketing programs. The text also includes sample programs for all ages-baby, toddler, preschool, elementary and middle school, and family programs-annotated bibliographies of ASL resources and materials to use with sign language, games and crafts for ASL programs, a glossary of terms relating to sign language and deafness, and a visual glossary of commonly used storytime signs.”

Order now from the Deaf Camps, Inc. Online Bookstore (autographed copies that support a great cause!) or at