Visual Storyreading Review

Seeing With the Mind's Eye

Video Review by Chris Wixtrom     © 1998

Visual Storyreading Program, Kansas School for the Deaf
by Pam Carson-Shaw & P. Lynn Hayes, 450 E. Park Street, Olathe, KS 66061
ASL translations of printed text. No voice-over, no captions.

Each video, $8.00; 10% S & H, $3.00 minimum. Payable to Kansas School for the Deaf.

A deaf child skips to the book rack, picks out a "book and tape set" of his favorite story, and sits down to share it with Mom, Dad, Gram, or Grandad "reading" along. Seems so . . . well, cozy. Natural. Yet, typical book and audio cassette sets wouldn't bring this pleasure to deaf children. Instead, they might wish to view a sign language version of a best-loved book. Enter the Kansas School for the Deaf Visual Storyreading Program, with American Sign Language videotape renditions of children's literature. Applause!

So far, the Visual Storyreading Program has produced videotape versions of over 100 popular children's books, each selection presented eloquently in American Sign Language by Deaf storytellers. Buyers may purchase videos and look for the corresponding books at local libraries or bookstores. Then Mom, Dad, Gram or Grandad can pop the video into the VCR, open the book, cuddle up with the deaf child and begin a delightful journey into the imagination.

It's common knowledge that reading aloud to children fosters enthusiasm for independent reading and contributes to skill development and broader awareness. But this bit of wisdom hits a brick wall when it comes to deaf children. Often, parents and siblings struggle just to talk together in sign language with the deaf child. Not many parents of deaf children are able to provide artistic ASL illuminations of classic children's literature. But now, thanks to the mini-masterpieces in the Visual Storyreading Program, a parent with eight dollars in hand has enough sign pizzaz to dazzle the most reluctant deaf reader.

The developers of the program, Pam Carson-Shaw and P. Lynn Hayes, with the help of their visual storyreaders, have written Guidelines for Selecting Books to Read Visually to Deaf Children, with "visual listening levels" from Preschool to 8th grade. A description of reading techniques, How to Use ASL to Read Books Visually to Deaf Children, comes with the videos, along with information about hanging bags and accessories for storing the book and video sets.

Families with deaf children aren't the only beneficiaries of this windfall of ASL literature. ASL linguistics students, interpreting students and their instructors will be wise to send their checks to the Kansas School without delay. These ASL stories are bubbling brooks tumbling with countless sparkling gold sign samples. The Lady and the Spider (Faith McNulty), signed by Chuck Baird, is so rich with classifiers it could keep serious students of the language busy for weeks admiring their finds. No need to pan for these priceless bits of ASL linguistics, though. Just push the pause button on your remote control pad and pluck out the nuggets.

When weighed in the balance, these wonderful ASL story videotapes prove of value to all ages. But best of all, in the eyes of deaf children, they are "real books!" and that's worth a fortune.

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