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Free Library Program Teaches Kids Sign Language

Cecil Whig

CHESAPEAKE CITY, Md. (AP) -- When kids want to communicate with each other these days, most are quick to turn to Facebook, Twitter or a text message.

But with a little help from children's library associate Amy Lewis, local children will be able to tackle a different form of communication that requires no batteries, plugs or Internet access.

Sign language, while not a traditional form of communication, is effective not to mention important, Lewis said.

The library associate will kick off a four-session program titled American Sign Language for Kids this afternoon at Chesapeake City Branch Library. The free program is open to children in grades three to five and will meet from 3 to 4 p.m. every other Wednesday.

"It's a basic introduction to American Sign Language for children," Lewis said. "They will not only be learning signs and using them, they'll also be learning about deaf culture. I want to be able to give them another way to communicate and show them why American Sign Language is important."

Lewis became interested in learning the language when she was a fourth-grade teacher at Bay View Elementary School. For fun, she enrolled in a few classes on the subject and later began taking courses for college credit. She recently completed an American Sign Language certificate program at Delaware Technical and Community College.

To teach the language, Lewis will introduce basic signs to the children using large pieces of paper. She will review each sign individually and incorporate them into different games and activities, like Simon Says.

Throughout the program, children will learn to sign phrases such as, "Hi, my name is," "It's nice to meet you" and "How are you today?" They will also learn signs for each of the letters of the alphabet, the numbers one through 10, colors, animals, hobbies and food.

While any new language can be a challenge to learn, Lewis said most of the signs are fairly simple. The challenge comes in learning how to structure sentences.

"The flow of the language is a little different, so it can take a little getting used to," she said.

But starting at a young age may allow the language to be learned more easily.

"Children are still very open to learning about it," Lewis said. "They see it as something different and fun to learn."

If after completing the program, children are interested in continuing to learn more about sign language, Lewis recommends that parents assist them in seeking out other resources available at the library, such as books and DVDs.

"I would like (children) to have an appreciation of what it eans to be deaf. It's important to understand and respect that there are a lot of different people in this world who do things differently," she said. "Hopefully, in the future, if they meet someone who is deaf, they'll be able to make a new friend."

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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