Hands Land: ASL Rhymes and Rhythms
August 28, 2019
My name is Leala Holcomb. This project is called rhymes… and rhythms for young Deaf children. Hello! My name is Jonathan McMillan. I grew up bilingually using American Sign Language and English. For the last four or five years, I have been engaged in ASL-related outreach, research and training. Rhymes and rhythms provide opportunities for children to play with language, and have fun with it! When I was young, my parents always signed songs to me. I loved watching them play with American Sign Language through rhymes and rhythms. They signed a bath time song, an ice cream song, and a bed time song. The process of language acquisition for me was not rigid and forced. I had so much fun acquiring language naturally through rhymes and rhythms. What a memory! When I was a little boy, my parents would sing all the time to me in the kitchen. They introduced me to food through rhymes and rhythms by spelling out the words, signing the words and then singing about them. Many studies have shown the importance of rhyme and rhythm for language acquisition during the critical period. When children have structured language, they understand the world. After I received my master’s degree, I became a teacher. I taught in an Early Childhood Education department, and I incorporated the love I had for rhymes and rhythms into my teaching. I found that ASL rhymes and rhythms resources were lacking. There were only a few and most of them were created by non-native hearing signers. Those resources were not tailored to meet Deaf children’s language needs. So I took on the challenge of creating my own ASL rhymes and rhythms resources, with help of some parents and teachers. And wow… it made the world of a difference for the kids. Many hearing parents find learning ASL to be a daunting task. Often times, parents become so focused on signing correctly that they that they lose sight of their reason for learning to sign. Signing should enhance the bonds between parents and children. The goal of this project is to create a tool through which parents can learn how to use rhymes and rhythms to more efectively communicate, play and connect with their deaf children. Teachers, parents, and Deaf children can share ASL rhymes and rhythms with us, and we’ll include the ideas in the DVD. Deaf artists can contribute their drawings to become the backdrops of our songs. Deaf signers and performers can sign the songs for the DVD. All donations made will compensate the contributors for their time and effort. I want to make this available to all Deaf children across the country. This will become a rich resource for parents and teachers to share with Deaf children.