By Leslie Marinelli, Communications Manager with Forsyth County Public Library
Forsyth County Public Library (FCPL) delivers a very unique monthly storytime in American Sign Language and English for deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing children; children of deaf adults; and their families. The Show of Hands storytime at the Post Road Library was developed by FCPL in fall 2018 to meet a need in the Forsyth County community after learning their traditional storytime format didn’t work for a patron’s two-year-old deaf son.
Post Road Library youth specialists reached out to ASL and deaf community experts in their area to research and develop this recurring storytime for maximum effectiveness and accessibility. They then partnered with Tracey Varrone, owner of Brick and Ivy Studio and former elementary school teacher with a background in ASL, and Amanda Tate, professional ASL interpreter for Forsyth County Schools, to create and facilitate the program each month.
As opposed to a traditional Post Road Library storytime, which typically includes 3-4 books, action songs, and a puppet show, the Show of Hands storytime utilizes only 2-3 books, but each one is read multiple times in a row. Tracey typically begins each book with a “picture walk,” which is a visual preview to spark interest and connection. During the picture walk, Tracey introduces signs that will be used throughout the book, demonstrating them and encouraging the children to sign along with her. “Picture walks are slow – that’s how we get ready to read,” said Tracey.
After the picture walk, Tracey and Amanda read the book aloud twice in English and ASL simultaneously. This repetition is the key to building vocabulary and integrating new signs.
Another unique element of this program is the unstructured time Tracey and Amanda provide between each book and at the end of the program for fellowship and creative play. They often set out a variety of seasonally themed manipulatives for fine motor and gross motor exploration. Several returning families have bonded with each other and look forward to this monthly social outlet with other families in the deaf community, not to mention the shared resources and support.
Families have traveled from as far as Ellijay, Roswell, and Kennesaw to attend this all-ages storytime in Forsyth County.
“We are so pleased to be able to provide such a meaningful experience for this community. Watching the older children help the younger ones with new signs while their caregivers share tips and resources is so heartwarming,” said Post Road Library Youth Services Supervisor Amy Szvetecz.
The next two Show of Hands programs are April 16 and May 14 at 1:15 p.m. at the Post Road Library, which is located at 5010 Post Road in Cumming. No registration is necessary. For more information, please visit the FCPL website or connect with FCPL on social media @forsythpl.