By Jasmine Watson – JRN 217
At 6:05 p.m. on March 4, 2021, Aminah Mosley and her partner, Kendra Jordan, logged onto Instagram to start a live session on their shared account, @readandsignwithme.
Read and Sign with Me is a virtual nonprofit program in which Mosely and Jordan read aloud to children ages 0-8.
Mosley, 44, spoke from the comfort of her living room in Brooklyn, New York with a wide smile on her face and introduced herself in American Sign Language, her hands moving slowly as she created each letter of her name.
Jordan, 38, did the same from a classroom in Brooklyn. Her smile was just as wide and her hands moved just as slowly as Mosley’s.
“Hello, hello, hello friends,” Mosley and Jordan said and signed in tandem. “Welcome back to Read and Sign with Me Thursdays!”
Then Mosley, a behavioral therapist, and Jordan, a teacher, introduced their books to an audience of 46 children and their parents. After the introductions, they took turns reading.
Mosley reads books for the children aged 0-4 and Jordan reads books for the children ages 5-8. The two women also hold a monthly Zoom party with a read-aloud session and art therapy, as well as more lessons in ASL.
“It’s a wonderful process of supporting children 0-8 and having them learn to communicate with others and the differently abled,” Mosley said.
Along with the read-alouds and Zoom parties, Mosley and Jordan hold a raffle in which one of the viewers can win the books featured in the live session.
“We give away books weekly, and it’s at our expense,” Mosley said. “We buy the books, we read the books and we donate them the next week.”
Mosley is a behavioral therapist for children ages 0-3 and Jordan is a second-grade teacher who teaches neurotypical and neurodivergent children in the same classroom. Jordan also runs a tutoring program for elementary school students called My S.E.A.T.
They started Read and Sign with Me during the height of the coronavirus pandemic to “support and promote early childhood literacy and language learning.”
Programs like Read and Sign with Me are significant because the pandemic halted programs that would have fostered educational development and kept young children occupied.
Literacy organizations like Litworld and Read To a Child advertised virtual read-alouds and provided resources to parents to conduct their own activities at home.
However, Mosley and Jordan discovered that there were no read-aloud programs specifically designed to prioritize young children who had autism or any other learning disability.
“We weren’t seeing women of color reading aloud to children in this age bracket and focused on those who were awesome but not typically developing,” Mosley said.
One family that benefits from the services Read and Sign with Me provides is Kieva Mitchell, a mother of two teenagers and a 5-month-old boy named Khari.
Although Khari hasn’t been diagnosed with autism or any developmental disability, Mitchell has made Read and Sign with Me a weekly tradition that the whole family can tune into.
“I set my alarm, so it reminds us Read and Sign with Me is about to start,” Mitchell said. “They learn new words, letters and share them with one another. My oldest children are able to read and bond with their little brother.”
Khari also won a Read and Sign with Me book raffle this past February, adding to the Mitchell family’s growing library.
Read and Sign with Me is under a year old and its Instagram page has 660 followers. Few people, however, engage with their posts.
According to Phlanx.com, an Instagram analytics website, Read and Sign with Me has a 2.68% engagement rate on its page. This means that an average post on its Instagram page would get about 19 likes and 2 comments. Their live sessions get 49 views on average.
Although Phlax considers 2.68% a “good” engagement rate, Jordan and Mosley have big aspirations for Read and Sign With Me.
“I would like to see Read and Sign with Me become an official nonprofit organization,” Jordan said. “We’re here to do our part for early childhood literacy and do something different.”