While at the Ontario Library Super Conference in January of 2008, I went to a session that suggested introducing American Sign Language (ASL) to young, hearing children, even during library programs.
Here are some notes:
Use ASL ...
1) with the youngest child to reduce frustration due to lack of speech and correspondingly develop the child's confidence (narrative skills)
2) to promote parent-child bonding (print motivation)
3) to increase spelling and reading comprehension. You are sharing language before the child can speak and are occasionally spelling out words. (letter knowledge, vocabulary)
(Correlation to Every Child Ready to Read's early literacy skills.)
Refer to the research of Dr. Marilyn Daniels that found that ASL helps create more brain synapses and uses both sides of the brain.
ASL also addresses different learning styles or multiple intelligences:
physical - move fingers, hands, arms
visual - see signs
verbal - eventually, say words with signs
music - add fingerplays
math - the pattern of a sign and finger space
interpersonal - sharing signs with others
intrapersonal - thinking of choice of signs/words to share
Here is the presenter's website, and here is her presentation ("Benefits of Sign Language for Children") powerpoint and resource lists.
Here is a recommended website on infant signing.
The presenter recommended that librarians can begin to include ASL in library programming by presenting one sign per page of a story or verse of a song. She also reminded the audience of the quote:
"If you tell me, I will forget. If you show me, I may remember. If you involve me, I will learn."