Signing Time! is a children's television program targeted towards children one through eight that teaches American Sign Language. It is aired in the United States and hosted by Rachel de Azevedo Coleman, daughter of the well-known film score composer Lex de Azevedo. It is aired by American Public Television in many cities across the US.
Signing Time! introduces children and their parents to ASL (American Sign Language), a “hands-on” second language used by millions.
Research demonstrates sign language’s power to help children increase their learning ability. With just a few simple ASL signs, babies and toddlers — some as young as nine months old — can express their needs before they can speak. Many school-aged children enjoy the benefits of learning a second language. Children with developmental delays or special needs can find their own “voice” by using their hands to communicate using sign language.
Signing Time’s unparalleled multi-sensory approach encourages learning through three senses — visual, auditory and kinesthetic — and reaches children with diverse learning styles and abilities by encouraging interaction through signing, singing, speaking and dancing.
Throughout the series, songwriter and musician Rachel Coleman, her daughter Leah (who is deaf), Alex (Leah’s cousin who can hear), and their animated pet frog Hopkins, teach hundreds of useful ASL vocabulary-building signs. Children learn signs for common words, questions, phrases, movements, colors, sports, days of the week, everyday objects, and common activities.
In 1996, Rachel Coleman had a daughter, whom she named Leah. Fourteen months after she was born, Coleman and her husband, Aaron, discovered that Leah had been deaf since she was born. Afterwards, the couple began to teach Leah sign language, first with Signing Exact English (SEE), then with American Sign Language (ASL), so that they may learn to communicate, becoming quite able at the skill. Rachel was astonished to see that within six months, Leah's sign language vocabulary far surpassed the vocabulary of hearing children her same age. Rachel's sister Emilie Brown and her husband Derek had been teaching Leah's newborn cousin, Alex, how to sign, and he grew to learn it quickly as well.
A few years later, Rachel had a second daughter. Lucy was born 8 weeks premature, with spina bifida and cerebral palsy. Doctors worried that, due to her cerebral palsy, Lucy would never be able to speak or use sign language to communicate with her deaf sister, but after production of the first volume, Lucy began to sign, and later, to speak. Rachel then realized that signing could be beneficial to all children.
Rachel and Emilie decided to create a visual video for hearing children so that ASL could be made accessible to all children, and together created Two Little Hands Productions, their producing company. The project has turned into a massive success, spawning a successful television run and much merchandise.
The second season introduces a new format that includes new signs and more original music. Each program addresses a single theme, marked by a theme song, which is introduced verse by verse. This allows children to develop a familiarity with the melody line of each song, fostering a sense of mastery and enhanced interactivity as they sing and sign along. In addition, new segments “ABC Time,” “Counting Time,” “Game Time,” “Story Time,” and “Hopping/Moving Time” explore the episode theme or other skills in a playful way. These segments employ teaching methods such as mnemonics, songs, stories and games, appealing to diverse learning styles and abilities by encouraging interaction through signing, singing, speaking and dancing.
Rachel is the host of the Signing Time! series. She has spent much of her adult life in the entertainment industry. While performing with her band We the Living, Rachel’s 14-month old daughter Leah, was diagnosed as having a profound hearing impairment. “When I realized my daughter was deaf, I could not find a way to rationalize spending hours working on my music. My priorities changed. I put down my guitar and picked up sign language.” Rachel’s second daughter, Lucy, underwent fetal surgery for spina bifida and was later diagnosed with cerebral palsy. In spite of such limitations, Lucy now communicates with both speech and sign language. After years of musical silence, Rachel has picked up that guitar again, writing and performing all of the songs for Signing Time!. She used to sing for her band. Now, she sings for Lucy, Leah, and children everywhere. In addition to starring in Signing Time!, Rachel is also a popular singer, performer, and speaker, and has performed for hundreds of thousands of children all across the country.
Leah Coleman is the inspiration behind the creation of Signing Time! Diagnosed as profoundly deaf at 14 months old, she began learning American Sign Language (ASL) as fast as her parents could learn it and teach it to her. Leah could sign full sentences long before her ‘hearing’ peers could even speak, and as a result, her parents say she never threw a tantrum. Leah is now in fifth grade and loves reading, skating on her “Heelys” and playing with her little sister Lucy. She recently won first place in her very first equestrian show and garnered national attention for winning first place in her school Spelling Bee, despite being profoundly deaf. Her favorite food is sushi and she loves the color purple. She loves being in Signing Time! with her cousin Alex, and teaching ASL to other children.
Alex Brown appeared in the very first episode of Signing Time! before his third birthday. He learned to sign as a baby so that he could communicate with his deaf cousin, Leah. He is now in fourth grade and loves to ride his bike, rollerblade, make comic books, draw mazes and play with his little brother Zachary. His favorite food is shrimp with shell pasta and his favorite color is green. He is a budding singer and pianist, although he enjoys playing the piano more than he enjoys practicing. A native of Salt Lake City, Utah, Alex has also lived in Virginia and California. He enjoys filming Signing Time! particularly when he gets to swing on the tire swing or have pillow fights on the set with Leah.
All numbers are in the order that the volumes were released from the Signing Time! official website.
Other items include printed materials including board books and flash cards, Signing Time! clothing, and Signing Time! music CDs.
Friends of the Signing Time series have come to know Rachel, Alex and Leah by inviting them into their homes through the Signing Time videos and songs. Many people have also come to know Leah's little sister, Lucy who was born with spina bifida and cerebral palsy. By the time Lucy was about two years old, she was not talking or signing. Her doctors said she was mentally retarded and would never be able to speak, let alone use her rigid fingers to sign.
Lucy beat the odds when she began signing along with the first volume of Signing Time. Starting with the sign for "more," she developed a vocabulary of hundreds of signs, and speech soon followed. Lucy now attends a mainstream second grade class in public school. Lucy is considered the first of many "Signing Time Miracles." She is the inspiration behind the Signing Time Foundation.
Lucy, like other little children, loves to play. However, because of her special physical needs, she often faces barriers when it comes to something as simple as "play".
Lucy loves to swing, but when her family takes her to the park they noticed that most parks are not very fun for her. There are no swings that support a child who cannot balance on their own, or who cannot hold on with both hands. Maneuvering a child in a wheelchair over railroad ties and through the playground's wood chips or sand is very difficult – Lucy would never be able to approach the play area by herself. The Coleman's quickly realized that these and other "barriers" were in the way of Lucy's having fun at the park and playing with other children.
Dissolving “barriers” of all types and creating opportunities for all children is what the Signing Time! Foundation is all about.
The Signing Time! Foundation creates programs and opportunities designed to dissolve the barriers that exist for children with disabilities.
This program involves constructing special universally accessible playgrounds, created to provide fun for everyone! The playgrounds will be designed for children of all abilities by eliminating barriers and encouraging interaction. Whether a child arrives at one of the parks in a wheelchair, a walker or on their own two feet won’t matter; these ‘boundless’ playgrounds will provide a safe play environment for all children no matter their ability.
Community play days organized and executed on a local city level in select cities across the nation. The Signing Time! Play Days will foster awareness of American Sign Language within a community, create an opportunity for neighbors to meet with one another, and provide a chance for the creators of Signing Time! to meet face-to-face with families that are dedicated to enriching the lives of children.
The Signing Time! Family Camp is designed to give participants an opportunity to "come and play" with the Signing Time! family. It is an adventure for all ability levels with activities created for the entire family to enjoy. Activities for children will include rock climbing, horseback riding, scavenger hunts, art and crafts, a family canoe outing, and family talent show. They even have activities for children under 2. In addition, they'll have workshops for parents presented by Rachel Coleman and her husband Aaron.
The Signing Time Foundation supports the first television series that speaks to and educates children of all abilities. Signing Time is an educational children’s television show that teaches American Sign Language (ASL) vocabulary using an innovative, multi-sensory approach that reaches children of all learning styles. Signing Time began airing on public television stations nationwide in 2006 and went from being relatively unknown to having over 80% national cumulative carriage. It is the only show on national television teaching children to sign. Public television does not pay for programming, and in order to keep Signing Time on public television, the Signing Time Foundation is seeking funds for 13 episodes. Major sponsors will receive screen credit at the beginning and end of each program.
Rachel Coleman, the President of the Signing Time Foundation and the host of Signing Time, participates in Signing Time outreach events across the country to teach ASL vocabulary and to educate parents, teachers, caregivers, and communities on the value of including sign language in their children’s learning. During these events Rachel teaches 40-60 basic ASL signs and entertains audiences with songs and stories to reinforce those signs. Signing Time offers a variety of resources and support materials for parents and children with special needs that are available at the events as well as readily available online. They are planning to present 24 Signing Time Outreach events over the course of one year. Major sponsors will be recognized at each event.
Signing Time has made a positive impact on the lives of many families of children with special needs, prompting the Signing Time Foundation to fund production of special interest Signing Time DVDs for children with hearing impairment, autism, Down syndrome, and other special and medical needs. They anticipate 5 DVDs. The foundation will license out DVD sales, with royalties going back to the foundation.
The Signing Time Foundation plans to host a Signing Time Christmas Concert for All Children during the holiday season. This concert would be the first of its kind, serving in particular the families of children with special needs. Signing makes a profound difference in communication for many children with special needs, and is a fun way for typically developing children to learn and use their body. Signing Time brings these children and families together to celebrate the Christmas season by singing, dancing, and signing along with their favorite stars Alex, Leah, their pet frog Hopkins, and host Rachel Coleman.
The Signing Time Foundation has partnered with Signs of Hope International to take Signing Time to Ghana Africa. Organizations like Signs of Hope International have found that most teachers in Ghana are entering the deaf schools without proper sign language education. Because of the lack of suitable resources, deaf children in Ghana struggle to learn and progress. The Signing Time Team, including Signing Time host Rachel Coleman, along with Alex Brown and Leah Coleman, child stars of Signing Time, will head to Ghana, West Africa for 10 days to teach sign language to students that are deaf. The Signing Time Team will also help the teachers learn how to teach sign language. Signing Time is looking to make this a yearly trip, where they can help inspire, teach and show children the possibilities for the future. It is the goal of Signing Time to also build playgrounds and dormitories at the schools as well.
Great American Toy Test - Out of over 96,000 toys tested, the Great American Toy Test awarded Signing Time! Volume 10 - My Day. More than 100,000 children tested these toys at over 1,000 Day Care, After School and Latchkey Centers across the nation. The testing criteria included overall quality, durability, ease of set up/assembly, ease of maintenance, learning/skill value, child's short/long term interest, fun value, safety and "should a parent buy it?" factor.
Notable Children's Videos - Each year the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), part of the prestigious American Library Association, identifies the best of the best in children's books, recordings, videos, and computer software.
More awards at: Signing Time! awards page
More media coverage can be found at Signing Time! News >> Media Coverage