Just as any teacher would use a story book to stimulate ideas and talk about themes and text, we use it in exactly the same way. Because it’s up on a screen, you can pause it, you can stop and look at a certain picture and talk about a bit of the story, so you can use it as you would any piece of literacy to extend writing. It’s lovely!"
Teachers and pupils at Dunbar Primary School in Scotland agree. Emma Skene and Doreen Sheerin who trialled Signed Stories believe it is a fantastic resource for young children in school.
Many children in their classes have deaf parents and rarely show their ability to sign – but after watching the stories they began to proudly discuss, “My Daddy can do sign language.”
One child even stood up in front of the class and showed the other children how to count to ten in sign. But most importantly, they say the website supports their Curriculum for Excellence guidelines from the Government – by helping the children to become successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors. The website is taking off around the world – it’s already being recommended to schools in Norway, featuring on deaf websites in Holland, Germany and Latvia and has been viewed by children from almost 30 countries worldwide.
There is a unique approach to classifying the books. On the advice of child development experts and authors, the books are not targeted at specific ranges, but instead are grouped together more subtly using difficulty branches on the Story Tree.
"A child of nine might be tentative and unsure about reading and to give them a book that says 9+ will reinforce their sense of failure. The book should be suited to the individual child."
Philip Pullman, author of His Dark Materials trilogy.
Stories on the website are zoned together under six broad themed ‘worlds’ including Adventure, Funny and Slimy Scary. Each of these book ‘worlds’ has a different look, designed to be used by adults and children alike to facilitate storytelling as a shared experience. The books can be searched via the Browse All Books page, a full alphabetical list, and the search engine will show books most recently uploaded.
Here is ITV's Signpost website - www.signpostbsl.com/
Malcolm Wright, Managing Director of ITV SignPost, comments,
"It was a natural progression for us at ITV SignPost to extend the reach of sign language from the TV screen to the Internet – using both our expertise in website production and British Sign Language access.
I echo Susan Daniels in saying that the only way to prove inclusion has worked is by measuring what deaf children actually achieve in school. Signed Stories is a tool that encourages synergy between school and home because all children can use the same stimulating resources. I really believe Signed Stories can help close the attainment gap between deaf and hearing children.
At the launch of Signed Stories in London, children’s author Mary Arrigan said something poignant to me - that storytelling is the common ground between adults and children. I think it is especially important – in families which may have communication challenges – that everyone can share fun family activity, deaf or hearing, old or young. Signed Stories has been designed and built with this real inclusion at its heart.
And we hope that our celebrity supporters, including Dame Helen Mirren, Robbie Coltrane, Joanna Lumley and Ricky Hatton will show kids out there that reading is 'cool'.
At ITV SignPost, we’re developing other web products as part of our commitment to keeping British Sign Language in the public eye in order for it to promote greater levels of acceptance and inclusion for deaf people. They too will include the provision of new resources for younger people. Some of the UK’s best children’s writers have taken the Signed Stories initiative to their hearts. "
Best-selling author GP Taylor, who was born to profoundly deaf parents thinks that the website is ‘the most exciting thing to happen in children’s reading since the invention of the book’. Graham visits over 200 schools every year to inspire children to read.
Teacher-turned-author Malachy Doyle feels that the website means that ‘everyone can enjoy stories as much as I do’.
Adelle Hopper is the Web Producer with ITV SignPost.
Published in BATOD Magazine May 2009