There is no way to learn any language from a book, and certainly not American Sign Language. However, there are some great resources to have on hand while you learn ASL. I will try to review a few here that I have purchased and recommend.
In no particular order, here are a few I own and like:
Teach Your Tot to Sign: The Parents’ Guide to American Sign Language
by Stacy A. Thompson (Author), Valerie Nelson-Metlay (Illustrator)
This book has the signs for the words that your toddler most wants to communicate with you. There are a couple signs that I found were different than what was described in other sources, but it seemed to mostly be due to regional differences. We started putting a check mark next to the signs we had learned in this book and soon checked off nearly everything because they were words that we needed to use in everyday communication with our youngest daughter. The book has drawings of the signs as well as descriptions of how the signs are made.
Signing Smart with Babies and Toddlers : A Parent’s Strategy and Activity Guide
by Michelle Anthony (Author), Reyna Lindert (Author)
Although I do not necessarily agree with some of the ideas in this book, I do like many of the activities given for practicing signs during everyday life with babies and toddlers. This book is part of a program that is offered in some areas of the country. I have not been involved with that. Sometimes, however, I would feel the need for another way to get language into my daughter’s brain and would pick some of the games and ideas from this book. The book’s main strength is giving ideas for games and activities to play with babies and toddlers to enrich the language of the child. I would not depend upon this book for learning signs, however. It has a very limited list of signs at the back of the book, which are black and white photographs of the signs, without much explanation.
This dictionary has drawings of the signs. Each sign may have a listing of several words that can be signed using the sign given. In addition, this book comes with a searchable DVD of over 3000 signs. Sometimes you really need to see someone do the sign, not just see a drawing or photograph. Since this dictionary is put out by Gallaudet, it says that the signs are the ones most commonly used in the DC region, which makes perfect sense for us since we live in the metro area.
Random House Webster’s American Sign Language Dictionary
I generally use this and the Gallaudet in conjunction when checking out a sign I need. This has line drawings as well as a written description of how to sign the word. It notes which part of speech it is discussing signing, which can be very helpful.
The American Sign Language Handshape Dictionary
I have not utilized this book as much as I would like so far. This dictionary has the signs placed in groups by the handshape. This way if you are a beginning signer, and you catch the handshape but do not know what the meaning of the sign, you can look it up. There is no way to do that in a traditional English alphabetical order sign language dictionary.