Deaf and hard-of-hearing children may not often get the opportunity to enjoy story time the way that hearing children do, but the Sign Language Interpreting Program may have found a solution that is just right.

Oct. 19 marked the beginning of Sign-language Story Time Saturdays at Barnes and Noble.

Started by Rhonda McKinzie, department chair of Sign Language Interpreting, the event is planned to be held every other Saturday at Barnes and Noble Bookstore in Tyler, where students and faculty from the program will read aloud while signing children’s stories in American Sign Language.

“We thought this would be a good way to advertise our program and get more people involved, as well as reach out to the community, especially the deaf children,” said McKinzie.

In a flurry of hand movements with animated body gestures and facial expressions, McKinzie acted out the story of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” while the story was read aloud by sophomore Interpreting student Karen Burns.

“In sign language, your face is your punctuation. When you read stories to hearing children, you use the expression in your voice. Deaf children can’t hear that, so you have to use your facial expressions and body language to help tell the story,” said Karla Watts, sophomore Interpreting student.

Refreshments accompanied the event and while there was no porridge to taste, Starbucks provided cookies and drinks, which weren’t too hot or too cold, but just right.

With the event being brand new and taking place on the same day as the Tyler Rose Parade, a huge turnout was not expected and the first time was viewed as a dry run, according to McKinzie. A team of four other students and faculty members were present and approximately 10 people showed up to join the audience. No children were present, but McKinzie is hopeful that once word gets out about the event, the next reading will draw a crowd that is not too big, not too small, but just right.

As the students in the program are training to work as interpreters for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, the story time serves as practice for the line of work.

“We have a saying in the department: ‘If you feel like you look stupid, you’re doing it right’,” said Alicia Poston, sophomore Interpreting student.

While the targeted age group is children up to 12, people of all ages, hearing as well as hearing impaired, are welcome to come enjoy the event, which will next be held at 10 a.m. Nov. 1 and 16 at the Barnes and Noble store on South Broadway Avenue. For more information, contact Rhonda McKinzie at (903) 510-2774.

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