Books "Lila signe avec bébé"
Coogli went to meet Julie-Anne, author of the books “Lila signs with baby” for children from 6 months to 3 years old. She tells us in this exchange how the idea came to her, why Lila and what the baby sign consists of.
Hello Julie-Anne, you have created 5 books on the theme of the baby sign. Can you tell us how you came up with the idea and tell us about it ?
Sure ! When I first became a mom, I became interested in the world of parenthood. With the dad, we did sign workshops, baby massage workshops: the idea was to get in touch with our daughter and not wait two or three years before she says a few words to me and I can understand what she needs. She was really tiny when she started. I participated in workshops in Aix-les-Bains (Pomme d’éveil) to learn with other families, then it quickly became a ritual at home. My husband, who was a little skeptical at first, ended up finding it great because our daughter was able to tell us her needs quite quickly.
In fact, from a very young age, children pick up the gestures that adults make. The first signs that children make are the signs like congratulations or like hello with the hand, or send a kiss. In fact they reproduce what they saw quite easily, that’s why you can sign from birth: it’s exactly the same thing with other signs except that you’re not necessarily used to do them then you have to learn. If we do them regularly or every time we say the word or do the action, the child realizes that if he means to suckle, for example, he can ask for it and have an answer to his need.
When did you start signing with your children?
I started from his three months. I thought it was gymnastics both for oneself and for the little one because we are not used to signing so we are not going to do it spontaneously. We’ll think about it a bit: the first months if we don’t do it very often it doesn’t matter because they are still small, and then babies like to see us play with our hands. They do not necessarily pick up the sign but they begin to understand that we are talking to them and that the sign is always associated with speech and action.
It’s interesting because it changes a bit from the usual mode of communication. When we sign we are obliged to look at the baby, to stop and also sometimes to adapt the speed at which we speak. We take a little more time so the child feels more concerned: he looks at us and sees us doing the action, it becomes a ritual. So he knows that when he passes the table, mom or dad makes a sign towards his mouth, will put him on his chair to eat for example.
It is this repetition that makes the child quickly understand that when he makes such a sign, it is associated with such an action.
Do you think that all children apprehend the sign in the same way?
I had two children very close in age, and they both approached things completely differently. The older one was very interested, she is more into the action so the signs she used helped us manage her frustration. For example the sign “I’m done” when she wanted to get down from her high chair and leave the dining table. Before we would have offered yogurt, bread, other things because we thought that what she had eaten was not enough when in reality she was no longer hungry. It allowed us to hear her needs and let her leave the table to play while we ate quietly.
The smallest of my two daughters communicated more about her primary needs, around 10 months she said to me “I’m hungry” or “I want my milk” “I’m giving a kiss” “where is my comforter, my pacifier” by example. There are children for example who don’t like to be dirty, by signing they can quickly make themselves understood and ask an adult to change their diaper.
Is there an age when children stop sign ?
The baby sign developed my daughters’ language a lot during the pre-verbal period, which lasted quite a short time because they very quickly succeeded in accompanying the signs with words. I always pronounced the words with them on the signs they made, which allowed them to pronounce them quite quickly. They have always kept a few signs each according to its own register. The tallest who is in middle section and who speaks, it’s a real dictionary. Her little sister does more signs of cleanliness, she likes to teach them to others.
The other big advantage of the baby sign is that it allows you to include other children who have a deafness disability. During a walk by the lake with my husband and my two daughters, when the oldest was two years old, she met a little deaf girl without knowing that she was deaf. They played together and naturally exchanged thanks to the baby sign. It was the trigger that pushed me to create Lila’s books.
"The other big advantage of the baby sign is that it allows you to include other children who have a hearing disability."
Following this click, you started to create Lila, tell us a bit…
I started imagining little stories that I started writing with the use of the signed baby. And then in fact there was also another subject which for me is important: I realized that in the literature of 0-3 years, there are no little girls. There is no heroine except in the cartoon Peppa pig, where the female character never goes out without her brother. It’s really very difficult to change mentalities, little girls don’t have a character that can look like them. Currently when we represent a heroine, she systematically has virile or masculine attributes, as if to validate the fact that she can be a heroine. With Lila, I chose to represent a flirtatious little girl, because we have the right to be who we are, feminine, masculine, without any style coming back to question the importance of the character.
A heroine can be an adventurer, and at times can be posed and read books.
I have often been asked if I was going to make a collection “for boys”, I find it a shame because Lila is for everyone. We don’t ask ourselves the question when we buy little books whose hero is a boy from a little girl.
So Lila, what is she talking about ?
I worked on several themes: the first book talks about the first foods babies like to eat, then the words we often use with little ones, emotions, little words of love, accompanied by signs.
The second book talks about end-of-day rituals: the idea was to put signs on the end-of-day stages to ritualize and facilitate transitions between, for example, bath and meal, meal and bedtime.
In the third volume, Lila introduces signs on the theme of Christmas with, for example, the preparation of Advent calendars, small Christmas decorations, sledding with her cousin.
The fourth book is about adventure, this time the illustrations are more animals. Signs with animals are great because you can associate the sound of the animal with the sign and it’s very visual, the children like it a lot, it amuses them.
The fifth volume is aimed at slightly older children (from 18 months): Lila will find during her trip to the land of emotions the little friends present in the other volumes.