PSL Stories is designed to provide a fun, engaging, and entertaining way for deaf children to learn to read and increase their vocabulary. PSL Stories features well known children’s tales, presented in Pakistan Sign Language (PSL). Each story is animated, with the option of English or Urdu translation. English and Urdu are both spoken and captioned throughout the story.
Unlike hearing children, Pakistan’s deaf children do not have sufficient materials to receive early language input in their native language, which is PSL. As more than 90% of deaf children are born to hearing parents, this lack of resources creates a great disadvantage to a deaf child.
FESF is working towards reducing this deficit by providing deaf children and their families with Pakistan Sign Language (PSL) Resources. These Resources include a 5,000 word lexicon of common words with PSL, English and Urdu inputs and are available online at www.psl.org.pk; via mobile app; DVD; and a PSL Book of 1,000 Basic Signs, which includes a translation in the major languages of Pakistan: English, Urdu, Punjabi, Sindhi, Balochi, and Pashto.
The PSL Resources have been distributed widely throughout Pakistan, and have been enthusiastically received and adopted.
PSL Stories builds on the PSL Resources by providing material for deaf children to begin reading at an early age. Similar to reading programs for hearing children, PSL Stories provides reading resources in the deaf child’s native language of PSL, alongside English & Urdu.
Bilingual education for the Deaf enables them to communicate effectively. For a deaf child, language input and output that is paired with sign language promotes faster, more organized and durable language development. The most current movement in deaf education recognizes that knowing one language (i.e. PSL) makes it easier to learn another (i.e. English, Urdu). Under this model, the goal of the deaf school is to promote and teach sign language as deaf childrens’ first language, and then teach them a second or third language (either through print or sign).
Timing Matters: Children who are exposed to a sign language for the first time in late childhood or adolescence turn out to be less proficient readers and sign language users than those exposed to sign from birth. Moreover, deaf individuals who acquire scant language (in sign or speech) during childhood almost never catch up in adulthood and do not attain native-like proficiency in any language, be it sign language or a spoken language.
In view of the above, Pakistan Sign Language Resources and PSL Stories serve as a stepping stone towards greatly improving the literacy levels for many, many deaf children in Pakistan.