ASL Tales
© ASL Tales:2015
ASL Storytelling – Benefits Beyond Words - by Susan Schaller ASL Tales is one of a handful of opportunities to experience an ASL-English paired text that is created to represent the discourse strategies of each language. In other words, ASL Tales honors the power of the story. Both texts are designed to stand alone as literature for audiences both Deaf and hearing, presenting readily accessible, linguistically rich opportunities. Up to nine languages provide access to speakers of those languages and opportunities for all hearing children to experience the additional benefits of cross-linguistic exposure and learning through multiple senses. Storytelling is among the most powerful tools in education, and has been the main vehicle through which cultures has been transmitted. Indeed language may be the result of the human need to tell stories (Percy Walker points this out as the main difference between humans and other animals in Message in a Bottle).  Many scientists think that signing was the first human language, as Oliver Sacks, for one, speculates, in Seeing Voices.  If true, this could explain the fascination and the strong attraction to visual storytelling. By using two different languages, accessible at the same time, bridged by the illustrations, and spoken English or a choice from up to nine different spoken translations, ASL Tales’ multilingual storytelling reaches a much broader range of learners and levels.  Metalinguistic and metacognitive thinking* is triggered by the observable differences of the expressions of the two languages.  This helps struggling readers or English learners with decoding and comprehension.  More advanced students are challenged to see deeper meaning and can work inductively/deductively between languages. This also provides an opportunity to explore cultural differences as language and culture are always married.  The same story expressed in equal, but different ways encourages awareness of cultural differences, a springboard into more stories and multicultural discussions.  The experience of seeing visual storytelling, hearing the same story in another language, and tied to English text provides a rare opportunity to include everyone in the classroom or family, regardless of differences. By providing many languages and different sense modes, ASL Tales can include many more children.  It’s not possible, in this short article, to address all the disciplines, levels and kinds of learners who could benefit from this kind of storytelling.  Let me, instead, simply open the door into the realm of possibilities of reaching many students and many objectives. Context in the visual story offers even greater accessibility to developing this skill, a prerequisite for self-expression, communication and empathy.  For young children or older kids who missed this important foundational skill, the identification of feelings is made easier with visual language. This skill is needed for the following goals: 1. Respect others (e.g. listen carefully and accurately); 2. Understand other points of view and perspective; 3. Identify social cues, verbal and physical, to determine how others feel; 4. Predict others’ feelings and reactions; and, 5. Manage and express emotions in relationships, respecting diverse viewpoints. Albert Einstein said, “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”  By providing the already known benefits of storytelling and with thinking in three -dimensional space, activating and engaging more of the senses in the learning process, ASL Tales provides a powerful classroom tool.  With opportunities for all students from gifted to those who have often been left out, we can now tell stories to the whole village. *Metacognition research shows (Louise Rosenblatt, 1978) Aesthetic, reader-centered, affective, interactive education, with an engaging personal connection, creates reader responses more than factual, text focused, informational cognitive presentation.