Rose Ayling-Ellis has made history on CBeebies by becoming the first celebrity to sign a bedtime story using British Sign Language (BSL) to mark Deaf Awareness Week.
Last year, the EastEnders star was crowned the winner of Strictly Come Dancing with her professional dance partner Giovanni Pernice, becoming the first Deaf competitor on the show as well as the BBC programme’s first Deaf victor.
One of the pair’s most powerful performances was their Couple’s Choice routine, which saw them celebrate the Deaf community with a powerful moment danced in complete silence.
On Sunday, Rose, 27, is set to make her debut on CBeebies Bedtime Stories, telling the tale of a young bear and his father as they embark on a journey to learn about and manage being Deaf.
Her appearance on the programme will mark the end of Deaf Awareness Week, which is taking place this year from Monday May 2 to Sunday May 8.
The actor, who was born Deaf and found fame starring as Frankie Lewis on EastEnders, will use British sign language to read the story of Can Bears Ski?, written by Raymond Antrobus and illustrated by Polly Dunbar.
In the story, which is inspired by the author’s personal experience of being a Deaf child in a hearing world. Boy Bear is unable to hear his father, Dad Bear, when he comes into his room to wake him up in the morning, nor can he always understand his teacher at school.
The bear keeps hearing the question ‘Can Bears ski?’, and is confused by what it means, before learning after getting hearing aids that the question was actually: ‘Can you hear me?’
Speaking about what it means to tell a CBeebies bedtime story using sign language, Rose said: ‘I am super excited to read my first CBeebies bedtime story in British Sign Language and it’s even more wonderful to share a story written by a Deaf writer.
‘I hope Deaf children enjoy the story and it inspires hearing children to want to learn BSL more.’
Can Bears Ski? will be the first story ever told on CBeebies using British Sign Language, and will also be accompanied by subtitles.
Rose will speak twice during the programme, first at the start to introduce the story and then again at the end to say goodnight to her audience.
The actor has recently been a vocal supporter of the campaign for British sign language to be recognised as an official language in the UK.
Last month, the bill recognising BSL as an official language in England, Scotland and Wales passed its final reading in the House of Lords.
CBeebies Bedtime Stories airs daily at 6.50pm, with episodes signed by a BSL interpreter shown every Saturday and Sunday. Rose’s first episode will air on Sunday.