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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Our Guest is Lora Heller, Author of Children's Educational Books on Signing

Lora Heller, MS, MT-BC, LCAT, Founding Director of Baby Fingers LLC is a Board Certified and Licensed Music Therapist with a Master of Science in Special Education/Deaf Education, and mommy to Zeke and Sian. Lora has worked extensively with babies and children of all ages through music and theater, both typically developing and those with special needs. Lora first learned sign language as a summer camp counselor so she could better communicate with a young Deaf camper.
She resides in New York City, and Lora has provided music therapy, music classes, educational enrichment, drama workshops, and parent/child sign language classes in such places as St. Mary’s Hospital for Children, St. Luke’s Hospital Division of Child Psychiatry & Roosevelt Hospital Preschool, The New York School for the Deaf, and the 92nd Street Y. She currently provides music therapy services privately and with the Creative Music Therapy Studio in NYC, and directs the summer Drama department at the URJ Eisner Camp.
Lora is certified by, in their Sign w/your Baby program. She served as a board member for NYCCAT (New York Coalition for Creative Arts Therapists), and she is a member of AMTA (American Music Therapy Association). Based on her graduate research and hands on experience, Lora developed Baby Fingers after Zeke began to sign at 6 1/2 months old!
Lora is the author of Sign Language for Kids: A Fun and Easy Guide to American Sign Language (ages 5 & up) and Baby Fingers: Teaching your Baby to Sign (board book series), published by Sterling Publishers. Look for her Sign Language ABCs this fall 2011! Lora has also co-authored a chapter for a college textbook about music therapy with the dying and bereaved, and her writing has been published in local parenting magazines. Lora was trained by Infant Massage USA as a CEIM (certified educator of infant massage).
 Tell us about the genre of your work. 
The genre of books I write is children’s educational books.  I have a 5-book board book series for babies and toddlers to learn sign language, and a dictionary stylebook for children ages 4 and older.  They are all full of color photographs.  I have a sign language ABCs book coming out in the spring of 2012.  I am working on a storybook about deafness and children.
Why did you choose this genre?
It was requested of me, and I really enjoyed it. 
What are some of your books, stories that have been published?
Baby Fingers:  Teaching Your Baby to Sign (5-book board book series), and Sign Language for Kids: A Fun and Easy Guide to American Sign Language. 
What ages do you direct your books?
My books are directed to infants (and their parents) through middle school. American Sign Language is a true language with its own grammar and syntax.  Most kids begin to study a language in school by 5th grade and some schools include ASL.  Moreover, ASL is a great language to use in and out of the classroom for transitions, private conversations, talking across the room or playground.  It is helpful in developing reading skills and new vocabulary.  Additionally, it is a wonderful opportunity to be able to communicate with a variety of people who may or may not be deaf. 
Would you tell us about your books, and where we may find them?
Most of my books can be found in your local Barnes & Noble.  They can also be ordered on,, and  Several boutiques and gift shops around the country carry them.
From the ABCs and the “1-2-3s” to full sentences, this fun guide, illustrated with photos of children signing, teaches youngsters all the basics of American Sign Language (ASL). They will start with the alphabet and counting, and move on to vocabulary for family, pets, and the home; things at school; days of the week; colors; favorite foods; sports and hobbies; and much more. Often, a sentence accompanies the sign, so that kids can grasp the use of verbs and other parts of ASL grammar. There are even explanations of how to change a statement into a question just by changing your facial expression. Now, even hearing kids can communicate easily with deaf friends or family members and have secret conversations whenever they want. 
Librarian Review on B&
Sign Language for ALL Kids!
Using sign language, babies everywhere are successfully communicating their needs and desires even before they can talk. They are jump-starting their communications and language skills while deepening parent-child bonds. With this adorable board book of simple signs, created by a leading expert in the field who runs her own school in Manhattan, parents can take advantage of a major new trend—one that’s become so popular it was profiled by The New York Times. On every page, cute babies demonstrate the gestures that mean Mommy, Daddylove, dog, cat, home, sleep, tiredhungrymusicmilk, and banana. Moreover, because babies very much like looking at photos of other babies, they will have fun even as they learn.
Publisher: Sterling, July 2004. 96 pages. Age range: from 8 to 12 years.
ISBN: 1-4027-0672-3   ISBN13: 9781402706721
Hardcover with Jacket 8 X 10

Series: Baby Fingers, Publisher: Sterling  Published: August 2004.  24 pages Board
I have always found books that show signs through photographs to be more helpful than books full of line drawings. This book is full of helpful photos of signs to help you and your baby communicate. I would definitely recommend this to moms and dads who want to communicate with their babies through the beauty of sign language.  (Five Star Review on B&
Series: Baby Fingers™  Publisher: Sterling Published: August 2004.  24 pages Board
Age range: from 1 to 3 yrs.
ISBN: 1-4027-1728-8 ISBN: 13: 9781402717284
I’m Feeling
Beautiful, the expressions on these children’s faces are just priceless. We have learned all the feeling signs and enjoy this book daily. (Five Star review on B&
This is a WONDERFUL book and an excellent place to begin signing with your baby. Another wonderful book is "I Want..." also by Lora Heller. Lora is an expert in signing as well as children. I signed with my baby from about 9 months, and he picked it right up. He is now a very advanced talker at 2.5 years of age. He loved signing, and so did I - it gave us a way to communicate before he could talk. I knew what he wanted and what he was feeling/thinking so much more often with signs! I can't say enough good things about it and about Lora Heller. The book has very clear pictures and directions for how to make the signs. Your child will like the actual pictures of other youngsters. (Five star review from a mom on
Published April 2006 | Sterling
ISBN 1-4027-3246-5 | ISBN13 9781402732461 
I Want Published: April 2006 | Sterling
ISBN 1-4027-3168-X | ISBN13 9781402731686 
Hello & Goodbye.  Published: March 2008 | Sterling
ISBN 1-4027-5394-2 | ISBN13 9781402753947
Editorial Reviews:  “Children's Literature” - The current trend seems to be encouraging the use of sign language to increase communication between babies and adults. The inside cover provides suggestions for teaching your child basic sign language. It starts simply with "Hello" and moves on to "Good Morning" and then proceeds to much more complex ideas such as "How are you?" and "I'll miss you." Many of the children making the signs look like they are old enough to be talking, but perhaps they cannot yet do so in complete sentences. The variety of children presented should encourage kids to pick up this book. Children are pictured making the signs, and the concept that it represents is printed in bold type at the top of the page. Below the picture in a colored border are detailed instructions for making each of the signs. The signs in this board book are more complex than any I have seen to date. It is definitely something worth trying with your little one. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot for B&
All Day Long March 2008 | Sterling
ISBN 1-4027-5395-0 | ISBN13 9781402753954  
Do your books have a teaching objective?  If so, what is it?
Yes they do, so far my books are designed to teach American Sign Language. I have worked with Deaf children of different ages whose parents could not communicate with them.  I could not imagine not speaking the same language as my own children.  Both of my boys were using language at 6.5 months with ASL.  It is true that babies understand language and their environment much earlier than they are able to respond to it.  ASL gives that opportunity to interact and make requests before speech is developed. Most babies that learn to sign have a stronger command of language, a larger vocabulary, and earlier onset of speech than their non-signing peers do.  By a year old, my children were having conversations in ASL, able to put sentences together.
Ben signing, "Please!"
What is your favorite thing about your book/s?
They are colorful and clearly designed. I think that Sterling Publishers did a great job of making the books clear and colorful.  They were open to my ideas of layout and color choices, but they turned out beyond my expectations.  The board books are small enough to be stored near the changing table to keep baby busy during diaper changes, or it is small enough to be carried in the diaper bag for quick reference on the go.  I felt very strongly about using photographs of kids rather than drawings of sign diagrams, for clarity of learning and for children to see what other children look like when signing.  I was thrilled when we went through the process of the photo shoots with the babies and kids!  
Is your book illustrated?  If so, would you tell us by whom, and if you worked with an illustrator, can you discuss that experience? 
Various photographers worked with the board book series and me for Sign Language for Kids—they all have color photos of babies/kids.  The ABC book has stock illustrations.  I had wonderful experiences with the photographers—somewhat easier when they used digital film so we knew right away if we caught the kids actually signing! 
How is writing in the genre you write, different than other genre?
With my books, my goal is education through photographs of signs and basic words/descriptions rather than an actual story.  
Are there any problems in getting children’s’ books published? 
I was lucky that Sterling Publishers found me for these books, but they do not publish every type of book I would like to write—so it takes time to find the right company! 
Why and when did you begin writing?
Sterling Publishers found me in 2002 looking for a sign language book author.  I had been published in college textbooks on music therapy prior to that time, and I have written many articles for parenting magazines. 
What projects are you working on now, or plan for the future?
I continue to put together ideas for sign language books and children’s storybooks about deafness, family, and other related concepts. 
What do you do when you are not writing? 
I am a mom of two boys—I am very involved in their public school and I direct the drama program at their summer camp.  I run my company called Baby Fingers LLC all year (see website below), and also work as a music therapist in early childhood special education as well as being on staff at Molloy College.  I love to read and I have been learning to knit!
Learn more about Lora and her books on these sites:   (blog on site)

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