ITV Launches £1.5m Online Project to Bring Storytelling to Deaf Children

Press Release by ITV: ITV has launched a major web-based initiative to improve the literacy of thousands of deaf children., is a unique free online library of signed books and is ITV’s contribution to the 2008 National Year of Reading.

Backed by eight leading UK publishers, The National Literacy Trust and a host of stage, screen, literary and sporting icons, Signed Stories will feature the best of contemporary children’s books in sign language with audio, animation and text.

The £1.5 million initiative is designed to enable deaf children to access stories at a much earlier age, and share in the joy and benefit of storytelling with hearing family and friends.

It follows a report from the National Deaf Children’s Society last year that the UK education system is “a national scandal” because only a third of deaf children achieve five A-C GCSE grades compared with 60% of hearing children. Poor literacy is blamed for the growing attainment gap.

And the Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen is backing the initiative. He said: “I am delighted to give my support to Signed Stories, an important and timely project which has the potential to change lives.”

Celebrity supporters

Celebrity supporters of Signed Stories include Robbie Coltrane, Joanna Lumley, Bill Oddie, Zoe Wanamaker, Julia Sawalha, Ricky Hatton and Jonny Wilkinson.

Another supporter Dame Helen Mirren said: “This is a wonderful idea that spreads storytelling to kids that might not otherwise be able to have one of the most important experiences of childhood.”

Some of the UK’s best known voices will feature on the website telling the stories which are being signed. They include Dawn French, Ian Holm, Kevin Whately, Martin Clunes, Bernard Cribbens, Andrew Sachs, Jane Horrocks and Peter Sallis.

Antonia Byatt, Director of Literature Strategy at Arts Council England said: “No-one should be without stories in their lives and it is particularly important that all children have the chance to experience the wonder of story from the earliest age.

“Signed stories has the potential to open up a creative world to young people, deaf and hearing, it’s a really exciting development.”

Get involved
Companies and individuals interested in sponsoring a story should contact ITV SignPost Managing Director Malcolm Wright on 084488 15200 or via email

Each story will be sponsored at a cost of £5000 – with 100 going onto the website in the first 12 months after launch, and a further 200 to follow by 2011.

ITV’s Executive Chairman Michael Grade said: “ITV has a proud tradition of creating on-screen access for deaf people. Web technology is enabling us to extend inclusion. We hope the Signed Stories initiative will make a real difference to the lives of deaf children and their families.”

Regional Development Agency One North East has already pledged support for the project, which will be produced at ITV SignPost’s Gateshead studio.

Why Signed Stories
Research shows that many deaf children miss out on storytelling because their command of the English language is poor. Signed Stories gives all the family – deaf and hearing – the opportunity to share the enjoyment of storytelling in either signs or English. The venture will also benefit children in New Zealand, South Africa and Australia, where British Sign Language is used.

This project will be a major resource for parents of deaf children – 90% of whom are hearing – in the home as they help their children become literate. It will provide advice and guidance for parents, and give access to the NDCS Family Curriculum so that they can learn basic BSL.

It will also provide resources around which teachers can base lessons for deaf children in either special or mainstream schools. Signed Stories will be an interactive, fun and inclusive space where children of all ages and abilities can enjoy reading, while learning English and
improving their literacy levels.

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