She has worked closely with several Sri Lankan deaf teachers and sign language researchers in the creation of these books which incorporate the Sri Lanka Sign Language developed at the National Institute of Education.
The Five Workbooks with Sri Lanka Sign Language for pre-school deaf children created by Shamila Kurukulasuriya, and published by M. D. Gunasena and Co., were ceremonially launched recently under the distinguished patronage of Brenda Haiplik, the head of UNICEF’s Education Programme in Sri Lanka.
The event was held at the M.D. Gunasena Auditorium in Colombo before a gathering of educationalists, principals and teachers of deaf schools and deaf children and their parents from all over the country as well as well-wishers.
Shamila has created these books in Sinhala, Tamil and English so that every deaf child in Sri Lanka and their parents, siblings, relations and friends could learn the basics of Sri Lanka Sign Language as well as the alphabets of their respective mother tongues, numbers and simple concepts during the child’s pre-school years. She has worked closely with several Sri Lankan deaf teachers and sign language researchers in the creation of these books which incorporate the Sri Lanka Sign Language developed at the National Institute of Education.
Parents, she says, are the key to opening the doors of opportunity for deaf children. Parents must take the responsibility to teach their deaf child how to communicate using sign language and finger-spelling and how to read and write, from very early age, before they start going to school. Most deaf children have the capacity to speak but they do not speak only because they are not taught how to speak when they are very young.
Something that Shamila saw a few years ago, when she came to Sri Lanka from the USA, and visited a Deaf School, lies behind the creation of these books. She was very saddened when she saw a young boy of about II years learning to write the letter “A”. She asked him why he was learning to write the alphabet at this age and he had said that he was never taught to do so by anyone before and had just come to the Deaf School, That is when she decided to write these books to help pre-school deaf children, their parents, family and friends to communicate with each other through sign language and to teach them basic concepts, letters and numbers.
The objective of her initiative is to help deaf children when they approach school going age, to have acquired the same basic knowledge of concepts, letters and numbers as well as reading, writing and communication skills as hearing children and set them up to confidently pursue their primary education. The books will also help hearing people including children to learn Sri Lankan Sign Language so that they can build a bridge between the hearing and the deaf. She is certain that if the deaf children learn to communicate and learn sign language and finger spelling and to lip read and speak, a whole world of opportunity will open for them.
These workbooks have been fully illustrated to engage the attention of deaf pre-school children and make it fun to learn the basics of sign language and their mother tongue and other languages.
Shamila was born deaf in Sri Lanka and has mastered sign languages of Sri Lanka and USA and has graduated from Gallaudet University in Washington DC and earned Master’s degrees in Graphic Design and Illustration from the Savannah University of Art and Design, in Savannah, Georgia, USA.