15 Books for International Day of Sign Languages

Posted: September 23, 2020 | Updated: September 23, 2020
Created by: Ms. Sylvia

These wonderful books will help you explore and celebrate International Day of Sign Languages. Some will help you learn signs, some feature deaf or hard-of-hearing characters, some are by deaf or hard-of-hearing authors, but all are excellent reads!

  1. My First Book of Sign Language by Joan Holub and Joan Holub
    A great introduction to sign language for the youngest learners!
  2. Dad and Me in the Morning by Patricia Lakin and Robert G Steele
    An early morning father-son adventure is described (and beautifully illustrated) in this picture book. They sign, lip-read, and squeeze hands to communicate as they share the early hours of the morning with nature.
  3. Ranvir Cannot Hear by Genevieve Yusuf and Shermain Philip
    Bright colors, rhymes, and signs guide you through this beautiful story. Ravnir has lost his hearing and sets out on a journey to find it... but finds something better instead.
  4. Freddie and the Fairy by Julia Donaldson and Karen George
    You can't go wrong with Julia Donadlson, author of The Gruffalo!
  5. Moses Goes to a Concert by Isaac Millman
    Moses and his classmates are the focus of a whole wonderful series by Isaac Millman. In this instalment, Moses and his classmates, who are deaf, show us new ways to enjoy music. You'll also learn some signs, including the alphabet and this whole passage from the book: "When you set your mind to it, you can become anything you want when you grow up: a doctor, artist, teacher, lawyer, farmer, electrician, or actor. I want to become a percussionist." I do too sometimes, Moses!
  6. River of Hands: Deaf Heritage Stories by Sharon Kirsh, Editor
    These stories are quite a mix! They are written by young deaf authors, sponsored by the Canadian Cultural Society of the Deaf. Great for ages 8-12.
  7. The Gallaudet Children's Dictionary of American Sign Language by the Editors of Gallaudet University Press, Daniel Renner, et al.
    This is one of the top recommended resources for beginning your studies of American Sign Language.
  8. Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly
    Communication is at the center of this beautiful (if sometimes a little bit clunky) story. 12-year-old Iris becomes obsessed with a whale who is having trouble communicating with its own species. Iris understands that, since she feels isolated as a deaf middle schooler. She dreams of finding a solution to help the whale communicate. Great for middle schoolers, who might relate to Iris' experience of feeling different, her one-track mind, and the importance of communication in the novel.
  9. El Deafo by Cece Bell
    This graphic novel has become a modern classic! Its author, Cece Bell, shares her story of growing up with a hearing impairment in this Newberry Honor Book. Sweet, funny, beautifully told! Great for ages 9 and up.
  10. A Handful of Spells by Kimberley A. Shaw
    Kimberley A. Shaw, the author of "A Handful of Spells" was born hard-of-hearing, but learned American Sign Language as an adult. Like the protagonist of this book, Kimberley's experience in school was made more challenging by the lack of support for her hearing difficulties.
  11. Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly and Isabel Roxas
    A beautiful novel of friendship and courage, this book won the Newberry Honor in 2018. Filipino folk tales mix with the events of a day told from four perspectives. This book features friends overcoming bullies and may be a bit intense for younger readers, but is wonderful for 5th grade and up. There's a lot in this book to discuss as a family!
  12. Deaf Child Crossing by Marlee Matlin
    I know the author of this book from her many appearances on The West Wing, but you may know Marlee Matlin as the first deaf actress to win an Oscar, or for her books, or for her activism on behalf of the deaf community. However you know her so far, I hope your 9-12 year old readers will soon know and love her for her books. This is the first in a very enjoyable trilogy about friendship.
  13. Deeplight by Frances Hardinge
    This brand-new book is one of my recent reading highlights. An amazing fantasy novel featuring an amazing fantasy world. You'll love the journey of the main character, who happens to be deaf. The ending was intense enough to warrant recommending this book for ages 12+, but it's a wonderful middle reader/ young adult novel.
  14. Hurt Go Happy: A Novel Inspired by the True Story of a Chimpanzee Who Learned Sign Language by Ginny Rorby
    I would recommend this book for older children, as well, since it deals with the topics of animal testing and animal rights. The story is very well told, though it has some unrealistic elements to discuss. Joey, who is deaf, has never been allowed to learn sign language, but learns in secret from Dr. Charles Mansell and his baby chimpanzee. Their friendship transforms Joey's life and later forces her to make difficult choices.
  15. Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson
    This slow-paced, beautiful book is an ideal read-aloud. It highlights many topics to discuss as a family, including racism, disability, segregation, religion, and poverty. The slow pace means that it can be difficult for even strong readers to finish on their own, but it is a wonderful story to explore together.