Emerge Story Lab
Driving 21st century learning through creative visual development.

Sign Me A Story: Shared Reading in American Sign Language

An e-book for shared reading in animated American Sign Language

Sign Me A Story; Shared Reading in American Sign Language

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Role: Concept Design, Visual Design, User Experience Design, Animator, Writer, Illustrator

Awards: NC State University Graduate Travel Grant, NordiCHI, Gothenberg, Sweden, Oct 2016.

Raleigh Visual Art Exchange Ignite Creativity Fellowship, June 2016

Presentation and Publication: Sign Me A Story: Shared Reading in American Sign Language with Interactive Animated Narration, The Future of E-Books, NordiCHI, Gothenberg, Sweden Oct 2016

Tools: Adobe Creative Cloud: Photoshop, AfterEffects, Animate

Sign Me A Story is an e-picturebook for tablet that provides an opportunity to share reading in American Sign Language (ASL). An embedded animated character narrates the story in ASL while English text and illustration serve as effective support. Additional interactivity provides greater exploration in building word recognition and print awareness. Sign Me A Story offers an inclusive means of storytelling for those that wish to share reading activities in ASL, as well as support for non-native ASL users.

The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.
— Anderson, et al.

Shared reading experiences between a parent and young child have been widely shown to have a positive impact on language and literacy development but deaf children may not have access to that benefit. Sign language is a visual language, but more importantly it is a language in motion. Traditional print picturebooks for ASL users are usually English text with static illustrations of “signs”, and many presuppose English literacy.

The development of language and the cognitive abilities necessary to achieve eventual success in literacy are formed during the earliest years of a child’s life. While most language acquisition happens naturally in the environment the child is exposed to, those that are born deaf do not have access to the phonological code. Chief among the many factors that contribute to a deaf child’s eventual success in literacy are early intervention, parental involvement, and exposure to literacy, including visual language. Early acquisition of a first language is critical, regardless of language choice or mode. Not all families of deaf children choose to use the accepted native language of the Deaf, American Sign Language, but among those that do, most have no previous knowledge of ASL.

Lemurs are the main characters in Five Good Friends, a collection of stories animated in ASL

Lemurs are the main characters in Five Good Friends, a collection of stories animated in ASL

Five interwoven vignettes build a story of five idiosyncratic lemurs, all different yet fundamentally the same. The characters are fully realized; experiencing frustration, envy, joy and wonder. It is through these flaws and strengths that the reader is able to empathetically engage in the story. Charming story themes of overcoming obstacles through persistence, soliciting cooperation, and empowerment provide a sense of self-worth to the reader.