ASL Tales
© ASL Tales:2015
Why We Say ASL Tales is Different ASL-English paired literature has been a staple of education for Deaf students for decades.  Though there are never enough materials, there is an extensive library of books that have been translated from English to ASL, and a handful that have been translated from ASL to English  The benefits of sign for hearing children have been validated thru research since the 1980s, and there are hundreds, if not thousands, of readily available products that teach sign. So what makes ASL Tales different and a valuable investment for your program? The ASL Tales design is the happy result of an effort to bring authentic ASL storytelling to all children.  We were troubled by the pervasive, and ever growing, misunderstanding that ASL equates to signs for English words.  Our goal was not a teaching tool, but rather an opportunity to use children’s literature for creating a better understanding of Deaf people and their language.  In the same way that we’d want our children to learn correct information about dolphins or Pilgrims, (whether they have a long term goal of becoming marine biologists or history scholars) ASL Tales simply wanted children and families to experience the richness of ASL and the culture that reveres it. We hadn’t intended a product that has made a phenomenal difference for families of deaf children, for ESL students learning English, for gifted children exploring meta-language, and for a special needs teenager reading and understanding his first book … and so many other applications that have been discovered AND not-yet discovered.   And we have. One of the ways this works is that ASL provides more detail than English.  There is no ‘right’ way to create a translation of any book - ours is just one possible version of our original English texts. Seeing the detail that is innate to ASL storytelling, helps students understand create their own visual images of our texts, and ultimately any text. Example from the Action Script  for The Princess and the Pea: English:  He traveled North.  But the Princess he found did not like warm weather. ASL:  [caps indicate sign vocabulary] The prince goes up NORTH He goes there and gets cold. He looks for a princess and sees her going by, being pulled by an animal (we know this is a polar bear because of the art). He follows her, runs after her, and says “hi”. Pinky uses a gesture to show that the Prince is in love The Princess responds like she’s not interested, while holding the reigns of the bear, The prince asks her to come HOME with him She answers, “no, I like it here where it’s cold.” The prince tells the audience that he’s disappointed. ASL is a complex language, and like any complex language, it has a form that is more readily available to language learners. We provide reading materials differently for younger children than we do for older students.  That’s also true in ASL.   To date, sign materials for children mostly focus on teaching simple sign vocabulary when the true opportunities of learning ASL, for all children, include the opportunity of thinking and expressing ideas in 3-dimensional space.   An ever growing body of research is proving that when compared to hearing non- signers, hearing signers have significantly greater capacity to understand facial clues, visualize rotating objects in space, and employ visual memory.  These cognitive benefits along with the opportunities of literacy development and multi-cultural understanding  -coupled with the opportunities for real include of children who use signs to enhance communication - can school buildings where all students are truly benefitting from, and ENJOYING, what ASL has to offer. We don’t deny that ASL Tales was created to make a difference for Deaf children.  We’ve always known, and the latest research is proving, that Deaf will be more successful in a world where they can communicate with their peers.   What we didn’t know is that hearing children genuinely experience academic benefits too.  The magic of ASL Tales is that, using our tools, non-signing faculty can  use ASL to help any child improve.  We are a small handful of volunteers trying to bring a very big idea to the world of education.  We invite you to contact us with questions, to engage with us in bringing this amazing opportunity to your students and colleagues.  We are, quite simply, trying to transform how school buildings are using sign.  We’d love your help. Contact us to discuss possibilities.