Words by the Handful is a collection of four short stories by author Mimi Brian Vance that teach little ones and their parents baby sign language. Baby sign language is a collection of American Sign Language (ASL) signs that help pre-verbal children communicate common needs and expressions. Titles included in the Words by the Handful set are: Milk and More, Bath and Boat, Book and Bed, and Baby and Bunny. This box set combines two of my favorite things, reading and baby sign language!

The characters Baby Ellis, BB The Black Bear, and Ducky use baby sign language to solve problems and communicate with mom and dad.

BB The Black Bear, the expert signer of this lovable bunch, clearly explains each new sign. I love how the signs are naturally woven into the stories. Each book introduces five ASL signs, yet this collection is about much more than simply presenting signs. The box set’s cover says “sharing sign language with your child” and that is indeed what I love about these stories. They really do help you share sign language with your little ones. The stories also demonstrate how pre-verbal kiddos can “let their hands do the talking” and provide a natural context in which parents and little ones can practice their signs.

You’ll know from my article, “Building Baby’s Library,” that I’m a fan of children’s books with pleasant rhyme and meter. So I appreciate the style of Mimi Brian Vance’s writing. Her stories have delightful rhymes, even when presenting the signs. For example, in the story “Boat and Bath” BB explains the sign for bath saying, “Put fists to chest, now start to rub, up and down, like when you scrub. Sign bath.” Too cute!

As an experienced baby sign language teacher in the Huston area, it’s no surprise that Mimi Brian Vance developed catchy phrases to introduce signs. Here’s some of Mimi’s story and the inspiration behind Words by the Handful:

“I knew about sign language long before I had my own children, and knew that it was something I wanted to do with them (if/when I got married and had some!). As I began to learn and use sign language with my own children, I found that while I knew the signs, sometimes – in the fog of early mom life – I would forget to use them when I needed them.  I wanted to incorporate them, but felt a bit overwhelmed with all of the things a new mom is “supposed” to do to help her baby get the best start in the world.  I decided to combine the signs with something else I was doing to promote language learning: reading aloud to my child(ren).  I wrote stories to read aloud to them, and incorporated the signs into the story.  They worked for me, helping me use the signs in rhyme and rhythm, and in context, and in a repeatable form that could be practiced by me, my husband, the grandparents, etc. When I showed them to my sister, she told me that I just HAD to get them published.  Being a good sister, I did as I was told.   Luckily, I found a publisher who agreed with my sister.”

In addition to the Words by the Handful board book set, Mimi’s developed six sets of American Sign Language Instructional Cards. I also hear she may have another Words by the Handful book in the works, yay! In addition to teaching and writing children’s books Mimi has a wonderful blog where she writes about all things baby sign language.

If you plan to use baby sign language with your little ones I would definitely recommend the Words by the Handful box set. It is the perfect compliment to the other more parent-centric baby sign language resources out on the market. One lucky First Time Mom reader will win a box set compliments of author Mimi Brian Vance. Just fill out the entry form below for your chance to win!

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Wife, work at home mom, and bassoonist, Laura Ankrum lives in Iowa City, Iowa. Prior to the arrival of her two children Laura taught elementary music and band in the Boston area. Now her home is her classroom and music studio. Laura is passionate about education, encouraging other moms, and eco-friendly living. She is the social media coordinator at Thirsties Inc and regularly contributes to First Time Mom.

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