Once you start hunting for resources for children's signed stories, you quickly realise how many exist but how much more stories you'd love to see retold in British Sign Language.
Children being able to read stories are vital to developing strong language skills, creative thinking and their world view as they get older. Signed stories let deaf children experience the power of storytelling in their native language which is vital to their literacy and learning.
Unlike audiobooks, signed stories are more inclusive and raise awareness of BSL too. Enjoy these mostly free resources for kids' signed stories.
The theatre and creative arts industry has taken a massive hit since the lockdown was enforced, but Deafinitely Theatre has found a way to bring signed stories to our homes. Deafinitely Theatre is a fantastic company proving theatre shows can be accessible to all audiences through British Sign Language and spoken English. While their physical doors are closed, deaf and hearing audiences at home can watch three of the company's stage shows online for free. Go to the Deafinitely Digital website and relive the live performance of William Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost, Grounded (16+) and dark comedy Contractions (age 16+) which is coming soon in June.
Frank Barnes School For The Deaf
What's lovely about these signed stories is a hearing child's experience of watching them will be just like a deaf child because there doesn't appear to be a way to add captions to these soundless videos. Think of this as a positive and use the time to discuss hearing loss with your child and let them be intrigued. Most videos like Charlie and the Firefighter and The Bear Who Came to Babysit are filmed so that the children's book is behind the presenter as they sign the narrative. This gives a great insight into how English and BSL grammar differ and how scenes and characters are described in sign language. If you listen closely and watch their mouths, you can make out what's being narrated so give Frank Barnes School's Vimeo profile a try.
ITV's Signed Stories is hugely popular with deaf families. The media company created an impressive children’s story app where all the books are signed, subtitled and narrated. Apple users can download the free platform via App Store where the full library of books are available. Children are treated to one free book on signing up – for now it's fairytale Three Billy Goats Gruff – but extra books come at a small price. If you don't use Apple devices, you'll have to watch the signed stories through Hopster.
Elmfield School For The Deaf
Who doesn't adore The Tiger Who Came to Tea, Peace at Last and the Rainbow Fish? These enchanting children's stories are as loved in print as they are in BSL from the Elmfield School for the Deaf. Again, the beauty is it's a real visual experience. For any of you thinking of having the family learn sign language, these signed stories will give you a taster of what sign language is like. Remember though, this is advanced signing! If any of your children are reading David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress – chapter one with audio is online. Also check out Longwill School which has shared signed stories like Ramadan Lantern, Pandora's Box and Aladdin.
Royal School For The Deaf Derby
Teachers at the Royal School for the Deaf Derby have been busy during this period of homeschooling. The school's toilet roll challenge kept their students entertained while stuck indoors their take on classic children's stories from last year have resurfaced online too. Some of these signed stories are mini film productions so hats off to all the staff showing off their acting skills. A voiceover plays while the story is signed so families of both hearing and deaf children can enjoy storytime. Expect older stories like the Pied Piper, Goldilocks and the Three Bears and even Aesop's Fables.
Join the Magic Hands cast as they teach children the joy of poetry through sign language. Having an entirely deaf cast is what made BBC's Magic Hands so special when it was first broadcast in 2013 as well as it being a children's sign language poetry series. Deaf children rarely get the chance to experience poetry as hearing children do, but this animated series entertained all kids. There are only a handful of episodes left on BBC iPlayer and they'll start to disappear in two weeks so add Magic Hands to your mental list.
The Royal Association for Deaf People have shared 22 captivating stories so far. The Gruffalo, We're Going on a Bear Hunt, Elmer the Elephant – so many popular books feature in RAD's BSL Signed Stories playlist that it's bound to appeal to your children at home. Freddie and the Fairy, which features in our list of must-read children's books with deaf characters, about a hard-of-hearing fairy and her mumbling friend, has also been reworked with sign language so we're doubly excited to see it. A bedtime story a night will last your family the next three weeks.
East Lancashire Deaf Society
Summer might be approaching, but it's never too warm outside to revel in the wintry magic of the Snowman – the latest signed story online from the East Lancashire Deaf Society. Wayne Sharples and Clare Stocks do a great job bringing these much-loved children's stories to life in sign language. Once your child has sat and watched the Snowman and the sequel with the snowdog, they can switch to the spooky Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson or Helen Nicoll's Meg and Mog. The East Lancashire Deaf Society is no longer operating so these signed stories will remain on YouTube for all children to see.