ITV today announced the launch of the worldâ€™s first animated storytelling app with British and American sign language.
The Signed Stories brand was originally launched in 2008 as a free website supported by a host of celebrities including Dame Helen Mirren, Joanna Lumley, Robbie Coltrane and Zoë Wanamaker.
Backed by the UK Children’s Laureate Julia Donaldson, it’s already won awards from the Royal Television Society, the National Literacy Trust, RADAR, the Plain English Campaign and the UK IT Industry for its work on inclusion. It has attracted viewers from over 100 countries.
It has also grown into a successful television series currently screening on CITV - the only children’s programme on TV in the UK with a deaf presenter.
The Signed Stories app is designed to make reading fun for all children.
“ITV is proud to be creating a digital product which every child can enjoy. Anytime, anyplace viewing is becoming the norm and we believe that all children should be able to enjoy the mobile digital world,” said Adam Crozier, Chief Executive Officer at ITV.
The Signed Stories app is fully accessible in sign language, subtitles, narration, animation and music. It aims to make books easier to read for children with deafness and those with special educational needs including autism, Asperger’s, dyslexia and Down’s Syndrome.
As part of the app, ITV is creating digital versions of a wide range of award-winning picture books in partnership with leading children’s publishers. On its first release, the app will feature books suitable for early years and primary school children, including contemporary stories, updated folktales and fairytales exclusively from international book publisher, Child’s Play.
“In 2008, we embraced wholeheartedly the opportunity to work with the Signed Stories website, and we’re delighted and honored to be chosen by ITV as their launch partner for this exciting new venture,” said Neil Burden, publisher and CEO at Child’s Play.
“These apps continue and further our attempts to make our publishing as accessible and inclusive as possible. They stand out from the myriad of book-based apps currently published for children in that they have manifestly useful and engaging content, outstanding production values and, perhaps most of all, genuine purpose.”
Two of the leading American Sign Language storytellers - Keith Wann and Peter Cook - present the stories for the North American market, which includes the United States and English-speaking regions of Canada.
"The mixture of Sign Language and technology is incredible and opens the door for more access to learning. As a native user and advocate of ASL literacy I was honored to be a part of ITV’s Signed Stories app and to give back to the community I grew up in,” said Keith Wann, ASL storyteller. “My two and four year-old hearing children love sharing the signed stories app with their Deaf grandmother and in return they share laughter and learning together!"
The Signed Stories app will initially be available on iOS devices including the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch. The app - available through Apple’s App store from October 16 2012 - will be free to download and includes a free version of The Three Billy Goats Gruff. All books featured within the app will be individually priced.
Users are able to customize the app to suit their individual needs. Parents, caregivers and teachers can benefit from the app’s guidance notes on how to get the most out of each book. It also comes with a free British Sign Language or American Sign Language video dictionary, which grows each time a new book is downloaded. Subtitles can be customised to improve reading for dyslexic children. The iPad app also carries free sign language learning games with every story downloaded.
The app was user tested by deaf children, children with special educational needs and their parents before its launch. It was produced by ITV SignPost, the company’s award-winning sign language production house in Gateshead, and designed by Newcastle-based media company Komodo Digital.