Bilingual children’s book published in Flemish Sign Language and Dutch

The new children’s book, Sign language saves lives by Hilde and Filip Verhelst, is about Noah–a young, deaf boy–and his experience taking his first diving lesson with some of his friends.  This is the first book of its kind to be published in both Flemish Sign Language  (VGT) and Dutch.  

The authors outline the aims of the project and provide a description of the book in the following letter:

Please allow us to introduce ourselves: Hilde and Filip, two deaf authors. In June 2013 we published the first bilingual (Flemish Sign Language and Dutch) children’s book in Flanders (Belgium).

I, Filip, read stories to my two children (hearing and deaf) every day. It became clear to me that there are no books for children about sign language and deaf culture. This annoyed Hilde and me and we wrote a children’s book ourselves. Hilde is a kindergarten teacher and has a lot of experience in signing to children during story hour. We think it is important that children learn positive aspects concerning the world of the deaf from a young age onwards. We wanted to make a book about these aspects similar to children’s books informing children about pregnancy, about the death of grandparents or about sorrow.

Our first children’s book is entitled “Sign language saves”. It is beautiful and the first bilingual book (Flemish Sign Language and Dutch). The book is about Noah, who is deaf, and narrates his first, exciting diving lesson he will take together with his friends. Adam, one of his friends, has never seen sign language before and is very interested to learn this new language. And a good thing he does. Sign language will save him during the diving session.

In the book you will find some advantages of Flemish Sign Language; how it is perfectly possible to communicate with somebody through a glass window or under water. We also show you some typical aspects of deaf culture such as a vibrating alarm clock, interpreters,… Additionally you will also learn some signs such as “what”, “interpreter”, “learn”, “downstairs”, “problem”,… through a list of signs in the book and by looking at the signs made by Noah.

The book comes with a DVD, the translation into Flemish Sign Language. A deaf illustrator, Filip Heyninck, who worked for Studio 100 (a company which produces very famous children’s programs for television), has illustrated the book.

Within 3 months our book was sold out–something to be very proud of. We are already contemplating the next step: a translation of the book into other written and signed languages. At this moment we are in contact with Denmark to publish the book in Danish and Danish Sign Language. The story and the illustrations are universal and timeless and can be used in any country.

Maybe you are interested to have the book translated into your language and publish it in your country? Please do not hesitate to contact us so we can start working together.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards,

Hilde en Filip Verhelst

Deaf authors of “Sign language saves”

You can order the book (second print) here:

You can also have a look at the press conference where we presented the book and the trailer in signed language: (press conference) (trailer)

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  • I feel it’s very positive that there is this new kind of children’s book aimed at a deaf crowd, and I have never seen anything quite like it before. This would be very useful for parents with both hearing and deaf children – it will also help hearing children understand deaf culture and what being deaf actually is like. I could imagine deaf children could on the other hand relate strongly to this story.

  • This book (with its signed video material) sure is a piece of the Deaf culture.

  • I think this kind of deaf representation is very important because the book is targeting children at a very young age, which makes it easier for them to understand deaf culture later in life, too. Both hearing and deaf people should be taught about these things – no matter how old they are.

  • I think this book, aimed at deaf children, is really important and a positive thing. Deaf children have the same rights, as we hearing people have, to read in their own language and express themselves through it. Children often handle tough real life situations and problems through stories so it is good that deaf children have the access to stories from a very young age.

  • Such a book for deaf and hearing children is a great idea! A very good aspect of the book is that people get to know sign language in a different way. Often people feel sorry for deaf people but here they learn that knowing the sign language has many advantages. Everybody knows situations in which it is very helpful if you can communicate in different ways because you cannot speak loudly.

  • The story is very sweet and this kind of book is always a good idea. I think the children who can hear should also see this because often there are wrong prejudices about deaf people. More books like this!

  • I think we need a lot more books like this. It shows sing language in a positive light and that’s just the kind of representation deaf community needs since majority of people still see deafness as a severe flaw and think deaf people can’t possibly live just as happy and fulfilling life just because they can’t hear. I also think that deaf child like any other hearing child has the right to read in their own language. I hope that the book will also help hearing people to understand that a sign language is its own language and not just a signed version of some other language.

  • This kind of material will be needed for future, so more signed and spoken video’s! This way especially kids with hearing aid’s and their parents can get to know deaf culture. Please, also show this kind of video for doctors and medical personel, that they would start appreciate sign language’s and deaf culture.

  • These kind of books are a remarkable step towards a society that does not only tolerate but appreciate sign language as one of the languages.
    By introducing sign language and the culture of deaf people to the children general opinions about sign language slowly change – for the better. The most common problem in the negative attitudes towards sign language/deaf people seems to be lack of knowledge.

  • This is exactly what we need! More bilingual books and especially books which are both signed and spoken, in this way both deaf and hearing children can read these books at the same time (e.g. at pre-school) and people get more knowledge about deaf culture and sign languages.

  • My first thoughts were simply of confusion about how exactly a book would work in Sign Language. Then I read the part about the DVD.

    Moving on… This is quite interesting. I fully support variety in the languages in which different works are available, and sign language certainly adds a whole new area of languages that can be used.

  • Hienoa! Kun ei kerran jotain ole, niin sitä aletaan tekemään, esimerkiksi kirjoittaa uusi kirja. Kirja on hyvin toteutettu, että sitä voi soveltaa ympäri maailman. Joskus vanhemmilla on pahemmat ennakkoluulot kuin lapsilla, ja se saattaa estää lapsia tutustumasta erilaisiin ihmisiin (kuten kuuroihin), joihin he luontaisen kiinnostuksensa vetäminä tutustuisivat. Mielenkiintoinen uusi oivallus minulle oli se, että kuurot todellakin voivat keskustella esim. lasin läpi ilman mitään ongelmaa! Sitä “taitoa” joskus itsekin tarvitsisi.

  • I think these kind of books should be published all around the world because it is really important to break and change prejudices. The story sounds nice and positive and it shows that sign language can really have advantages. I believe that this kind of way of breaking prejudices could really work in real life: the characters are relatable and they show positive interest to sign language. The book also shows the life of a deaf child, for example with describing the vibrating clock. That helps hearing children understand deaf people.

  • I think this book is a very important and great thing. These kind of books should be published all around the world.

  • What a great idea! I think knowing sign language can prove to be a very valuable skill whether you’re deaf or not. Looking forward to a translated version of this book.

  • Books like this should definitely be published more all around the world! Sign languages feel often quite strange because people don’t get to touch with them. This lack of knowledge creates prejudices against deaf people. Through these kind of bilingual books it is possible to change the attitudes towards the deaf slowly via children.

  • Sign language to isn’t a thing that I often come across and finding out new information about it always surprises me. I had never even thought about books for deaf children. I think this piece of news is amazing and the popularity of the books just shows it.

  • It’s very important to encourage children from the young age that it is perfectly fine to be themselves. I think that these kind of books are great for that and especially for deaf children. It can help other people to learn about deafness and them to get closer to each other as well.

  • I was very delighted by this news, as I think it’s a great thing that deaf children can find a story they can relate to. I am also delighted by the fact that a little-known language might receive more attention.

  • As an early years practitioner I think it is really important to children to be able to have books which are in their own language and to which they can relate to. Those books truly are important since via them childre’s language skills as well as identity develops. Actually, a few days ago Viittomakielinen kirjasto published one Finnish children’s book to Finnish sign language which is a huge improvement.(

  • On hyvä, että monikielisiä perheitä otetaan huomioon tällä tavalla; vastaavia teoksia ei varmasti ole liikaa. Tällainen teos varmasti auttaa pieniä lapsia (ja miksei vanhempiakin) oppimaan molempia kieliä melkein huomaamatta.

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