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Activity and strategy

Teaching Sign Language to My Deaf-Blind Son Through Books

Fun ideas to teach sign language to a deafblind child through literacy

Before I create a book for my son, Liam, I purposefully think of two things: what interests my son and what do I want to teach him through this book.  A recent book I made for Liam was a “Bible” to put in his Easter basket. 

Explanation of the book

My son is almost 4 years old, and recently became deaf-blind (a little over a year ago).  He is rapidly learning sign language (ASL)  and I look for every opportunity to teach him new signs!  What better way than through literacy. 🙂 


I added crosses of different textures that I knew he would like.  I teach him the word “cross” and the phrase “Jesus loves me” when we ‘read’ the cross pages.  It didn’t take him long before he was signing “Jesus loves me” on his own as he read the pages! 

Wooden cross with text in print and braille, "Jesus loves you."
Wooden cross with text in print and braille, “Jesus loves you.”

On the page that has 3 crosses, we practice our counting as well. 

3 crosses
3 tactile crosses with print and braille labels

Boat page

The page with the boat and the animals represents Noah’s Ark.  The boat is glued onto the page but the animals are velcroed onto the page so Liam can take them off and put them into the boat.  Liam learned the word ‘boat’ through his new ‘Bible’ and now signs it every time he ‘reads’ the Noah’s Ark page. He now is able to sign ‘boat’ when he finds toy boats in his toy box. Liam also learned the word ‘in’ as in put the animals ‘in’ the ‘boat’.  (See picture of Liam reading the Noah’s Ark page.)

Noahs Ark
Noah’s Ark with miniature plastic animals and boat
Young boy looking at Noah's Ark page
Young boy looking at Noah’s Ark page

Baby Jesus Page

Liam already new the sign for baby (he has a baby brother) but I taught him the word bed (for manger). The baby Jesus is attached to the page with Velcro so Liam can take Him off and put him in the bed (manger).  Today, when we read the book, he even told the baby Jesus to go to sleep in His bed, all in sign. 🙂 

Baby Jesus
Baby Jesus” in print and braille with wooden figure wrapped in blanket and small manger filled with silver tinsel.

Liam’s “Bible” is one of Liam’s new favorites. He now asks for this book by name, calling it either the Jesus book or the boat book. 🙂 


  • hot glue gun
  • textured crosses
  • braille words
  • a blank book that is three holed punched (lays down flat nicely) I buy mine at Michaels. 
  • Velcro
  • objects of choice
Metal cross with text in print and braille "Bible"
Metal cross with text in print and braille “Bible”


The child can be included in the creation of the book, by helping to tell the story and to choose the objects to illustrate each page.

  • Read the book aloud, giving the sign for each object.
  • Ask the child to repeat the sign.
  • Point out the words in print and/or braille, and call the child’s attention to the object or tactile illustration.
  • Ask the child simple “wh” questions — who, what, where, when
  • Have the child tell the story back to you.


Other Bible stories I was thinking of making in the future:

  • Daniel in the Lions den
  • Jonah and the whale
  • David and Goliath

**Think of all the new signs you could teach through these stories!! ***

Other books I have made for Liam that focus on sign language:

book collage

shiny fabric on a bar

A Little Breakthrough with this TVI’s Student Who has Complex Needs Including CVI

Liam using the low tech restaurant book

Communication Tools in the Community for Students who are Deafblind


Ideas for Teaching Tracking and other Tactile Skills