On April 15th, 1817 students gathered in Hartford, Connecticut for the opening of the very first school for the Deaf in the U.S. It was here, and at other subsequent Deaf schools across our nation, that students intermingled Native American Signs, French Sign Language and Martha Vineyard Sign Language, and together developed the language we now know as American Sign Language. In honor of these first students, April 15th is recognized across the United States as American Sign Language day!
In addition to being an important day of recognition in its own right, this special day holds a deeper, more personal meaning for me. My mother, Gloria Barron, worked for more than 20 years as a volunteer teacher at the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind, sharing her passion for geology, nature, and science. As part of her experience teaching there, she became proficient in American Sign Language so that she could easily communicate with her students who were deaf. As a result, it wasn’t unusual for our family to be practicing signing with each other around the dinner table. I loved practicing signing – and my favorite was the sign for “lightning”, which looks like a bolt of lightning zapping through the sky!
This year, to honor American Sign Language Day, I asked the wonderfully talented Deaf Poet, performer, and storyteller, Peter Cook, if he could use his skills to bring the words of Kate and her adventures to life. His artistry truly adds a new dimension to the story.
After you watch the video above, I encourage you to explore more of Peter’s work. His storytelling is truly magical, radiating expression and emotion that is unlike anything I’ve ever seen! Thank you for your skilled interpretation, Peter, and happy ASL Day to all!