December 20, 2022
SIL LEAD has released a collection of 20 sign language books for deaf and hard of hearing children in Mali–the first ever digital sign language storybooks in Sign Language for Malian Schools (MsSL).
The books–which cover a range of subjects, including agriculture, animal stories, community living, health, science, personal development and more–are available on Bloom Library, where they can be read, shared and adapted. The online platform, created by SIL International, has more than 12,500 free books in more than 500 languages that can be read, listened to or downloaded and printed.
The sign language books were produced under the Digital Books for Our Children in Mali, a project funded by the All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development (ACR GCD) Begin with Books Prize and led by SIL LEAD innovators in partnership with the Malian Association for the Deaf (Association Malienne des Sourds or AMASOURDS) and two schools for the deaf and hard of hearing in the capital city Bamako – École des déficients auditifs (EDA), and École Jigiya Kalanso (EJK). Created in 1989, AMASOURDS has over 6,700 members and advocates for people in Mali who are deaf to promote equal opportunities, including sign language education and the establishment of local, national and regional organizations for those who are deaf.
“Many deaf children in Mali have had difficulty reading and understanding because of the lack of availability of books in sign language,” says Dana Benjamin Diarra, previous AMASOURDS president who previously taught at École des déficients auditifs (EDA) in Bamako, a school for the deaf. “Thanks to the LINEMA (Livres Numériques pour Nos Enfants au Mali) project created by SIL, we were able to produce 20 digital books in sign language so that deaf students in all schools in Mali can benefit from learning to read and sign and acquire a natural language, accelerating the development of sign language without difficulty so that they can have a way to express themselves and improve relationships between parents, children and friends.”
The books were created using SIL International’s Bloom book creation software, which allows users to create books easily in any language and add sign language videos and human narrated audio, in keeping with Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles. SIL LEAD’s long time commitment to accessibility and underserved languages has also resulted in awards from prior ACR GCD competitions, such as Enabling Writers and Book Boost.
The Begin with Books prize funds innovators like SIL LEAD to create storybooks in national and local sign languages in nine countries. Research shows that children experience greater reading success when learning in their local spoken or signed language. Providing engaging and accessible books in these underserved languages is essential to empowering and supporting these children on their path to literacy.
All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development is a partnership between USAID, World Vision and the Australian Government.