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MLIS alum featured in Saltwire (ASL Story Time brings children’s literature to life with sign language)

Posted by SIM on October 12, 2021 in Alumni & Friends, News

Elphege Bernard-Wesson (MLIS '20) was featured in a Saltwire article about the online video series, ASL Story Time. Watch on the Digitally Lit YouTube channel here

Excerpt shared below. Click here to read the full article.

Storytelling has to be the oldest art form we have, dating back to the birth of language when oral histories took shape and tales of ancestral deeds and mythic explanations for the world as humans knew it were passed on from one generation to the next.

Centuries later, the practice persists, from an author reading their work off the printed page for an appreciative audience to parents sending children off to dreamland with a tale out of a favourite, dog-eared volume. The experience can be heightened with gestures, characters and whatever acting skills the storyteller has at their command.

In the digital age, two Nova Scotian practitioners of American Sign Language present the online video series ASL Story Time, bringing East Coast authors’ work to life for a young audience that might not get to enjoy them through traditional means.

Ellershouse high school student Kaylee Harding is a youth ambassador with Digitally Lit, which promotes literary practices with digital tools among Atlantic Canadian youth. An ASL user who learned the language to communicate with her uncle who is deaf, Harding proposed ASL Storytime as a way to provide children who are deaf or hard of hearing with enjoyable tales at a time when they may not have been able to access school or public libraries.

“Especially if their parents don’t know sign language, then there’s no way that they can get those stories read to them. So that kind of halts their progression,” says Harding, who was partnered for the project with deaf mentor Elphege Bernard-Wesson, joining her onscreen to help relate the stories Pirate Year Round by Marla Lesage and, in a brand-new video, The Snow Knows, by Jennifer McGrath.

Bernard-Wesson is a 2020 graduate from Dalhousie University’s Master of Library & Information Studies program, currently working as a reference and instructional librarian with Washington, D.C.’s Gallaudet University. She immediately saw the value in the ASL Story Time concept as both educational and entertaining, and with Harding she provides expressive sign language narration that brings the stories to life for viewers of all ages.

“To have this as a resource is wonderful and I hope this will be of help regarding learning sign language for everyone,” writes Bernard-Wesson in an email.