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Improving literacy through sign language

colleen ReadingI’m Colleen Brunetti, and I’m pretty excited to join you all here on the SEEDS Blog! Before I dive into my topic, for today, I wanted to take just a minute to further introduce myself. Perhaps you’ve read my bio – primarily the list of professional pursuits and passions I find myself chasing. But to know how I got here, I have to look back there, way back, to my childhood.

By my parents’ account, I was a voracious reader from the very beginning. They used to read to me for hours a day (and we all know how incredible that is for your kid… right?!?) and I was an early reader before Kindergarten. The love continued and one of my mom’s favorite stories is how I had a playdate (um, except we didn’t call it that back then!) and things got suspiciously quiet. You know when kids are quiet you should worry, right? So she sneaks up to my room to catch us at whatever it is we’re up to and finds us… reading. Yes, I had playdates where I read. In short, I was a happy and social nerd.

When it came time to choose my Master’s Degree program many years later, the answer was simple, I would major in Reading, and so I became a reading specialist.

Life took one unexpected turn after another, and I found myself no longer in the public schools, and searching for a job I could do at home. In short, I founded my company where the goal was to teach sign language to kids, caregivers, and teachers. I had fallen in love with sign language at age 18 when I played the roll of Annie Sullivan in The Miracle Worker, so the fit was natural.

Soon after I started this endeavor, I picked up the book “Dancing With Words: Signing for Hearing Children’s Literacy” by Dr. Marilyn Daniels. As she says in the very first sentence of the very first chapter, “This book is about sign language, and how sign language can be used to improve hearing children’s English vocabulary, reading ability, spelling proficiency, self-esteem, and comfort with expressing emotions.”

She goes on to talk about many other things sign language helps support, and it’s all great stuff, but it was this idea of improving literacy that really stuck with me. I was floored that in all my years pursuing a love of literacy, both personally and professionally, and with my fairly extensive signing background, I had never put the two together before. Yet, here it was, laid out in 175 fascinating pages: how to harness the power of sign language to support children’s literacy, the literacy of all children… and you didn’t even have to know a lot of sign to get started.

Needless to say, I’m hooked on the concept. I don’t know why sign language wasn’t in my grad work, why it isn’t in every early childhood care program, preschool, and even beyond into the early elementary grades. It all just makes so much sense! But, The SEEDS Network has been kind enough to share a little piece of cyber space with me, and I’m excited to bring you more on the topic!


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