Tom: Just found an old home movie of me and Leala, showing us playing with ASL rhyming games when she was a toddler. This one shows two signing plays based on the English nursery rhymes “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and “Humpty Dumpty.” But as we described in our last blog post, Leala and her partners in Hands Land have taken this idea further and developed DVDs that just focus on ASL-based rhymes and rhythms.
In our last blog post, we showed examples of different ways that nursery rhymes can be rendered in sign language using ASL rhyming patterns. For me, that brought back a lot of memories of when my kids Tara, Leala, Cary, and Troy were small. We would often make up ASL rhythmic patterns for every daily activities like meal time, bath time, and bed time. It was a way to turn mundane daily routines into something more enjoyable. I had a lot of fun participating in language play with them, especially when they were very young. Watching those tiny hands forming rhythmic patterns is something I will never forget.
I am delighted that Tara and Chad are continuing this tradition of language play in ASL with their own children, Pax, Thoreau, and Clementine. They adore Aunt Leala for her creativity in creating ASL rhymes and using them at home.
Leala Holcomb in Hands Land DVD
Now I am thrilled that my daughter Leala has decided to start a new venture called Hands Land, with the goal of encouraging more families play with their children through ASL in their own homes. With the creation of new materials to support young children’s language development through ASL’s intrinsic rhyming and rhythm patterns (unrelated to English), it is hoped that more of these toddlers, especially the deaf ones, will be able to grow and thrive in a language-rich environment.
How can rhyming be portrayed in ASL? Is there rhythm in ASL? How do rhyming and rhythm support deaf children’s language development? There is a growing movement to promote language development among young children through ASL rhymes and rhythm. The following presenters supply information and demonstrations of different ways that rhyming and rhythm can be used to engage young children.
Barbara Wingfield creates a Thanksgiving ASL Rhyme
“It is crucial to engage young Deaf signers in ASL songs that they are able to re-chant and internalize the language and make their own. Historically, Deaf children who don’t have enough opportunity to “play with language and developing ASL phonemic awareness” tend to struggle more in academic performances. The use of drum usually engages them to follow the beats with repetition more effectively.
I’ve witnessed how Deaf children have taken with delight in the visual images and strong rhythmic character of ASL own version of nursery rhymes. Visual imagery and the rhythms indeed have a powerful effect on cognition.”
Austin Andrews demonstrates how to adapt Hey Diddle Diddle…to ASL in Youtube below
We look forward to seeing more and more of this kind of work in ASL for several reasons. One is the pure entertainment value of watching performers make nursery rhymes come to alive in ASL. In addition, we are excited about the prospect of deaf children having increased access to nursery rhymes through ASL.