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Videobooks for Deaf Children: For the Love of Reading

Have you ever thought about what our first reading experiences are? For many of us, we were introduced to books and reading by our parents' reading to us. Story time is a very special time that brings parents and children together. It is also a way to introduce children to a classic story of their country or to a piece of world literature, and it established an interest in learning and reading. Studies show that reading in early childhood is important for future school performance. But what if your parents don't read to you - because you don't share a language?

Most deaf children, over 90%, are born to hearing parents, and unfortunately, many of these to do not have, or do not take, the time and interest to learn sign language so that they can communicate effortlessly with their children. In Argentina, for example, many deaf children only have real access to a language-rich environment when they enter school with other deaf children. This means that deaf children do not get this early access to literature and reading from their parents.

Canales Asociación Civil, the organization I run, therefore started making what we call Virtual Videobooks: Books that are read in Argentine Sign Language, with voice-over and with the original text and illustrations of the books. This is helping to bridge the gap that often exists between deaf people and literature and it also promotes social inclusion of deaf children, who can share the books with friends and family. So far, we have “published” 19 books, with 11 more to go online shortly. The first 15 were modern children’s books from Argentina, the same as all small children are read. The next series were classics, such as Little Red Riding hood, and we are currently finishing up a series for young adult readers.

To create a Videobook, after picking the book, deaf readers and linguistic models get together and decide on how to read the text, respecting the meaning of the text as well as the integrity of the sign language and its grammar. Then the reader is filmed in front of a green screen. Our readers have been between ten and seventy years old – this allows the deaf children exposure to deaf people of all ages. Our first fifteen books were all introduced by a small child asking questions, while our classic collection was introduced by deaf grandmothers talking about their childhood and their own experiences with reading. After that, the video is created, presenting the text and the illustrations behind the person signing. A voice over is added last, so that deaf and hearing children and adults can enjoy the books together.

The Videobooks are available for anyone to use at, they used in classrooms all over Argentina, and are included as part of the didactic materials on the laptops that are distributed to all students in special education schools. This means that not only do the teachers use the books to foment reading and a love for literature in school, but the children can share the books with their family members and friends at home. The children love the books and their parents and teachers are delighted to help them open the door to the world of reading and literature.

Latin America and the Caribbean
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