- Associated Press - Saturday, December 31, 2016

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (AP) - Lillian Hosking started to use sign language about the same time she learned to walk.

The now 7-year-old Charles Town resident began toying with sign signals at the ripe old age of one. Six years later, the second-grader can sign fluently each word her mother reads out loud from a preschool story book.

Developed as a means for the deaf to communicate, sign language, if learned at an early age, may help children to learn verbal skills more quickly, said Katrina M. Hosking, children’s librarian at South Berkeley Community Library at Musselman High School.

“It’s a visual way to learn,” Hosking said. “Some kids learn in different ways - some kids learn more visually, especially younger kids, who have a smaller vocabulary. It’s a way for them to express what they want to say in an easier way.”

Sign language consists of a combination of hand shapes, orientation and movement of the hands, arms or body, and facial expressions to express a speaker’s thoughts. For instance, to express the word “pond,” a signer makes a circular action with fingers from both hands.



Teaching children to sign at a young age may also enable them to express themselves more fully than with words alone, Hosking said.

“To connect things that are verbal and visual for little kids, really helps, because it’s an action thing - you’re excited and doing something,” Hosking said. “With sign, readers can understand what they’re saying better, because the child using sign may not yet have the vocabulary to explain it in words.”

Sign language holds another appeal for Lillian.

Lillian enjoys doing sign mainly because she finds it fun,” Hosking said.

Lillian’s signing skills are also helping her earn a “speaking in sign” merit badge from the Girl Scouts of the Chesapeake bay.

Hosking herself puts her sign language skills to work each Tuesday and Wednesday, overseeing “Sign With Me Storytime,” a half-hour kids program that combines children’s book story telling with sign language.

On Wednesday, Lillian got into the act. While her mother read from “Boo Boo,” a pre-school storybook about a young gosling, Lillian simultaneously signed each spoken word.

Lillian’s sign language schooling started serendipitously when her mother came across a “Signing Time” episode on public television while they were living in South Dakota.

Lillian loved the music and all the signs; she thought it was fantastic and fun,” Hosking said. “We kind of got into it, because she didn’t have a lot of vocabulary at 1 year old.”

Attendance at Wednesday’s storytime class was light, with area school children enjoying the week-long school break. Hosking said sessions typically draw a healthy number of pre-schoolers.

Upcoming “Sign With Me” storytime sessions include “Squirrels” on Jan. 17-18, and “Penguins” on Jan. 24-25. A special pets storytime and movie is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 7 at 10:30 a.m.

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Information from: The Journal, https://journal-news.net/

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