Multimodal storytelling, sign language interpreters and children’s participation in literature socialization events

Pulido, Laura Morgade, Marta Poveda, David

Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain


Programming storytelling events in libraries and children's bookstores in which a sing language interpreter is also present has become in Spain a common strategy for the Deaf community to enhance Deaf children’s participation in these social settings. Also, for many hearing children this is one of the most important spaces where they come into contact with sing language and Deaf children. In this presentation we examine results of a qualitative research project that, among other things, gathered video recordings of children’s storytelling sessions in a library and a bookstore in Madrid (Spain) in which the main storyteller was accompanied by an interpreter and a visible segment of the audience was composed by Deaf children and their families - as part of the project we have also interviewed storytellers, the interpreter, some of the attending children and families and collected a variety of documents from these settings.

In our analysis of these events we have developed a model that considers these sessions rich multimodal storytelling episodes (Norris, 2004; Kress and van Leuween, 2001) in which the discourses of the main storyteller and the interpreter produce a complex narrative, where features of sign language, gesture, orality and other modes/media interact with each other. The effects of these interrelationships for hearing and Deaf children are varied but previous analysis of the data suggest that, overall, Deaf children face more challenges to access the main narrative and experience a number of discursive configurations in which elements of the story are lost for them (Authors; accepted for publication).

In this presentation we focus in detail in the multimodal unfolding of a fragment of a version of the "Sleeping Beauty" story as an analytically revealing counter-example of this general pattern. Within the corpus of video recordings it is one of the episodes in which Deaf children have a more active role and, in fact, seem to be ahead of hearing children in their understanding of the story. Also, the narrative sequence itself centers on the display of different communicative modes and media (aural, visual and kinesic) and makes explicit within the story itself the properties of different communicative channels, serving as meta-commentary on modality in itself. Finally, since children’s responses during the episode are relatively high and contingent the sequence provides some access to their on-line interpretation of the narrative during storytelling events - something that is, generally, methodologically complicated to access via video-recordings of public performances. This micro-analysis helps raise questions in relation to Deaf children’s access to cultural public institutions and more generally the complexity of forms in which literature is delivered to children in modern urban contexts.


Authors (accepted for publication). Storytelling with sign language interpretation as a multimodal literacy event. Language and Education

Kress, G. and van Leeuwen, T. (2001). Multimodal discourse: The modes and media of contemporary communication. New York: Arnold.

Norris, S. (2004). Analyzing multimodal interaction: A methodological framework. London: Routledge

Session: Paper session
Discourse 1 (Bi-/Multilingualism/ -modality)
Thursday, April 3, 2008, 15:45-17:15
room: 11