Fort Worth families learn sign language

By Daniela Mendoza

Fort Worth families had the chance to enhance their communication with their children by learning sign language.
The Southwest Regional Library hosted the Baby Sign and Speak four-week program for families who want to learn sign language.
A.J. Bowman-Shelton, the sign language teacher, said she caters the program depending on who is there.
“I just think about what is practical,” she said. “I try to think of things that will help people commit it to memory.”
Bowman-Shelton said children vary on how long it takes them to learn sign language.
“A lot of times, you won’t see evidence of them doing it until you least expect it,” she said. “Be patient and be observant. They are not going to get it right away, but they are picking it up more than you know. If you are patient with them and keep practicing, you’ll notice that they are actually doing it.”
Bowman-Shelton said parents also benefit from participating in the program.
“[The parents] don’t think about it much, but they are learning a second or third language,” Bowman-Shelton said. “If they ever come in contact with someone who is deaf or hard of hearing, you can communicate with somebody else that doesn’t get to communicate with everybody.”
Bowman-Shelton said she also looks for books with repetition when picking the books for the program.
“Illustrations are really important because of their age,” she said. “They are bright and big. Anything that is going to help reinforce what they are learning.”
Michelle Lee, acting youth and teen services coordinator, said the baby sign and speak program is very important because it’s mostly about parent engagement.
“In order for children to really learn, it has to take place more frequently than just coming to the library one time,” Lee said. “You need to have lots of practice at home. A.J. does a really great job of incorporating the literary element.”
Lee said the library offers a variety of books for parents to practice sign language with their children.
“The library has lots of storybooks in sign language,” Lee said. “We have lots of regular reference materials as well as DVDs.”
Bowman-Shelton said she has been doing the baby sign and speak program for about two or three summers.
“It’s rewarding because I’m with families, that’s what I really love,” Bowman-Shelton said.
Lee said parents can join the program at any time even if they missed another session.
“She does a really good review of all the different skills from day one,” she said. “They practice the alphabet song and learn how to finger spell their own names. She does the repetition of all the signs they learned before, so you can pick up on the things you missed.”
The Baby Sign and Speak program will be happening again on Nov. 19 at the Southwest Regional Library.