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Art of storytelling comes alive in incredible ways through sign language

Who, among us, has not grown up listening to our parents and grandparents tell us bedtime stories? Storytelling is an essential part of growing up. It opens up a whole new world to children.

Stories are not just fun and exciting to listen to, they are vital for cognitive development, to encourage conversation and to understand concepts. And this is for all children, with and without disabilities.

However, children who are deaf and hard of hearing usually get left out of this rich experience. Something Tina Saighal, Founder and Executive Director, Sanket Foundation decided to do something about. in India, helping them lead lives of inclusion and opportunity in the

Sanket Foundation is a charitable trust that works with India's deaf community, enabling them to lead lives of opportunity and inclusion in the mainstream.

Storytelling is a great way to develop their imagination and concentration, improve conversational and social skills and build their confidence. It's also a great way to spend quality time together and build a strong relationship. We communicate a lot of social messages through stories. - Tina Saighal, Founder & Executive Director, Sanket Foundation

Saighal says that while hearing devices enable some children to get auditory benefits, that is not true for most deaf and hard of hearing kids. "It then becomes even more pertinent to tell our stories with sign language, so that they can get all of the above benefits."

Sanket Foundation holds a storytelling session once a week at the school they run. Apart from this, it has conducted a workshop with an author.

The session with the author was organized in partnership with leading publishing house, HarperCollins Publishers and NGO Atulyakala in New Delhi last year, an experience that Tina Narang of HarperCollins Publishers described as a "unique one".

"As children's publishers, it is our constant endeavour to reach out to readers and one of the best ways of doing so is through storytelling sessions. They allow children to engage with authors and their books in a deeper way", said Narang.

The first such session was held at Mount Carmel School with author Deepa Aggarwal, who read from her book, 'Sacked! Folktales you can carry around'.

About 20 students, most of them between 5-8 years old were present. For the author, it was a wonderful experience, one that enabled her to reach out to a larger audience.

"As an author, I try to reach out to as large and varied an audience as I possibly can. So, I was really excited when I was informed that my publisher was organizing this storytelling event", says Aggarwal.

As she read out from her book, a person picked out the words that were being read out from a word chart.

An initiative that Sanket Foundation plans to hold every three months and invite students from other schools as well, to introduce a larger world to the evocative and expressive power of sign language.

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