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Sertoma’s Unique Library Donation Helps Deaf Students

The Kansas School for the Deaf (KSD) located in Olathe, Kansas, was provided with a new digital library to help students learn both American Sign Language (ASL) and English at the same time. The donation was provided by the Kansas City Sertoma Club, of Kansas City, Missouri.

“Once upon a time, in a faraway land…” Does this sound familiar to you at all?

Often times it is the beginning of a story, a magical adventure with a realm full of endless possibilities.  For children growing up, stories tend to become an interactive way to connect with the people around them.  Unfortunately, for students in the deaf community, storytelling with their friends and family is not always as simple, due to language barriers.

Recently, the Kansas City Sertoma Club, of Kansas City, Missouri, donated $5,000 to the Kansas School for the Deaf (KSD) to help fund a specialized online library.

This new digitally designed library is now allowing deaf students and their families to experience storytelling in a creative and innovative way. One of the ways this technology is breaking through communication barriers is by emphasizing bilingual education.

This program, originally developed by Georgia Tech, is called a SMART sign library. The unique library consists of a wide variety of books that have been translated into American Sign Language (ASL). All of the stories are recorded using ASL, and are uploaded to an online website. The ASL translated videos can then be accessed from the internet at home, school and even personal devices. The books are recorded for online purposes, but are also available in hard copies that can be checked out from the library simultaneously.

By having two of the same books, one recorded in ASL, and one recorded in English, students and their families are now able to follow along with stories at the same time. Having the same book in two different languages enables students and parents to learn and become familiar with both languages.

Educators at KSD are hopeful that this new technology will have a positive impact by helping students become more versatile with their reading.

Leslie Caldwell, a speech language pathologist at KSD, and a Sertoma Affiliate representative for ten years, said that she is extremely excited about this new program.

“We value and utilize English and American Sign Language equally,” Caldwell said. “We do this to ensure our students achieve their full potential.”

The Kansas School for the Deaf is nationally known and ranked as one of the top ten deaf schools in America. Currently, KSD has over 100 students, and every student will have access to this new digital library. However, this program is not exclusive to KSD. Every student in the state of Kansas will also have an equal opportunity to use the new library.

Mona Huggins, the librarian at KSD, wrote the grant for the program, and has been slowly introducing students to this new technology.  Huggins said the reaction from students thus far has been extremely positive, ranging from comments such as “Cool” and “Neat.”  Olivia, a fourth grader said, “Wow! This program will help me learn more English vocabulary and connecting words to American Sign Language!”

Jayda, a fourth grader, mentioned that she will now be borrowing books from the library so that she can read more during the summer.

In addition to the new library, $500 from the grant also went to the school’s infirmary to assist with the purchase of socks and underwear for the students.

Caldwell said she believes this program will be beneficial to the students, and that she likes being able to positively contribute to the community with the Kansas City Sertoma Club. “I like being a part of something bigger. Making a difference within my community that we can directly be involved with; that gives us purpose,” Caldwell said. “Seeing the students and staff member’s smiles, reminds us of why we are inspired to serve.