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Telling stories in sign language

Story time is a fun way to introduce your child to new and exciting worlds that help them develop their attention and engagement, grow their imagination, and learn new vocabulary.

Watch our videos to find out about different techniques for telling stories using sign language. 

Storytelling using characters

Storytelling using outdoors

Storytelling using pictures

Storytelling using props

Telling stories using sign language

When you're telling stories to your child in sign language, the most important thing is not the speed of your signing but your clarity and accuracy.

Here are a few tips.

  • Make sure your child can see the book, your face and the signs you are using. This will help them to understand how the elements of storytelling are connected together.
  • Make sure there's plenty of light on you so your child can see your facial expressions and signs easily.
  • Use eye contact to keep their attention.
  • Use lots of facial expressions to show how characters feel.
  • Try and use gestures and mannerisms that fit the characters in the story, like being big, loud and heavy for an elephant and small and timid for a mouse.
  • If you're using your voice, use different voices for different characters. Even if your child can’t hear your voice, they'll pick up on those elements of the characters by lip-reading you and watching your gestures and expressions. Remember, keep storytelling fun and be as expressive as you can.

Involve your child in storytelling

It’s important to keep your child as involved as possible in story time; it will help keep them interested and improve their concentration. Here are some things you can try to get your child to take an active part in storytime.

  • Let your child choose a story they want to read and let them touch the book and turn the pages.
  • Use pop-up books to keep your child's interest.
  • Allow your child to ask lots of questions about the story so you can explain what's happening.
  • Be guided by what your child is interested in and let them point out the parts of the story they like the most.
  • Spell out words using fingerspelling, or ask your child to find different letters in books. This will help your child remember how those words are spelled.
  • As your child’s communication skills develop, encourage them to take a more active role in telling the story. You could take turns signing a page or even a sentence each.
  • Eventually, your child could tell you the whole story in their own words and signs. It's a great way for them to be creative and express themselves.

Be creative 

Try to have fun with your storytelling and make up new stories with your child.

Here's some helpful tips to get your creative juices flowing!

  • Don’t feel you always have to follow the written text. As your sign language skills develop, you'll be able to adapt the story to suit the signs your child knows and understands.
  • Involve your child and let them move the story along by making decisions for characters or events in the story if they want to.
  • Play around with the endings of stories. Ask your child how they think the story should end, or what might happen next.
  • Encourage your child to put themselves into the story. If you were the main character, what would you do?

Remember, your stories don't always have to come from books. You can tell real life stories about yourself and your family. This is a great way to involve other family members as they can tell stories about themselves and other people in your family.

You could be really creative and make a storybook using family photographs, or make a scrap book together about a family holiday or fun activity and retell the story with your child.

Choosing books

Choosing books can be fun, so get your child involved to choose a story to read together.

Here are some things to think about when you’re choosing books for your deaf child.

  • Very young children love colourful and very visual books. Clear and uncluttered pictures help them understand easily what's happening in the story.
  • Touch and feel books are great fun and give you lots to discuss and learn about.
  • Picture dictionaries can be really useful and make it easier for your child to understand the meaning behind a word, helping them increase their vocabulary.
  • When your child is ready, choose books that can develop and extend their language; books with new words and signs, or a more complex story that challenges them.
  • Look for books and stories with positive images of deafness. Check out our reviews page to read other families' reviews of books featuring deaf characters.

To get you started, check out our range of children's books for books featuring positive deaf role models!