April 19, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

These Teens Started a Sign Language Storytime and YouTube Channel

Maine West High School in Des Plains, IL, is known for its rich and diverse culture. Our students speak more than 58 languages, and 60-plus countries are represented in a variety of clubs and organizations.

One of the newest organizations represents a population that is unique in both language and culture. The Maine West American Sign Language (ASL) Club started last year after a group of students showed interest in learning the language and culture of the American Deaf population. We have met weekly for a semester, studying and practicing ASL, and we launched a YouTube channel where we perform signed children’s stories.

While our library Book Club members read the stories aloud, our ASL Club participants perform for children at our in-house preschool program and our local public library. This group has shown our school and town the power of libraries in the community.

Working in collaboration with other clubs and within curriculum, the ASL Club has grown from a small, isolated group to a student-led organization focused on integral outreach and education. Not all of the books we choose are in English, and we research the language and culture of the picture books we select and work to communicate those aspects of the story to our young audience. One of the best things about it? Any school library can facilitate this kind club.

Nicole Coover-Thompson is a librarian at Maine West High School.

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  1. This is so cool! I would love to see this idea spread. I would also like to share with you the free Teachers Guide for The William Hoy Story, How a Deaf Baseball Player Changed the Game, which has activities for deaf and hearing kids. The book is on the 2018 Monarch Awards master list and is published in your backyard by Albert Whitman & Company. file:///Users/Nancy/Downloads/William-Hoy-Teachers-Guide%20(12).pdf

  2. Nicole Coover-Thompson says:

    Thank you, what a great resource, I appreciate you sharing!! I can use it at home and with our program at school!

  3. Ann Clare Le Zotte says:

    I am Deaf. I have worked in the same public library system for almost ten years. I teach free, accessible, inter-generational ASL classes. I also do ASL storytelling in my storytimes and outreach visits. I talk to hearing children about Deaf Culture and I mentor Deaf kids and teens.

    I think this is fantastic! I am grateful that you are teaching children that ASL is a part of Deaf Culture. It’s important for people who are learning ASL to have respect for that. I hope you are working with your local Deaf community. I find one on one cultural exchange to be so important.

    The young lady signing in this video does a wonderful job. She’s vivid and fun. I can feel her pride is signing. I’d love to see more, but I can’r find your YouTube channel. Congratulations on an excellent program!

  4. Nicole Coover-Thompson says:

    Thank you!! What a wonderful compliment from a member of the Deaf Community, I will show this too my student! I will make my channel public soon, I need permission forms from all of my students prior to doing that.

    I am a hearing parent of a deafblind child, this club is an extension of my belief that Deaf Culture needs to be preserved, and celebrated. I am glad we are keeping true to that in the eyes of people in that community…that is the most important part!

  5. Ann Clare Le Zotte says:

    Thanks for responding! I should have thought about parental permission. I am looking forward to watching your channel.

    I should have guessed you have a connection to Deaf community. The project seems passionate and well-informed. That’s important.

    I was born in 1969 and grew up with people staring when I stared in public. Tell your kids I am grateful that they are interested in learning ASL as part of Deaf culture. It makes the world a friendlier place for people like me!

  6. Where is the YouTube channel? I’d love to see some more stories signed. : )

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