My 4-year old, Phoenix amazes me with his knowledge and thought process! I haven't signed to him consistently since he was a toddler, but most recently he has been seeking ASL words and trying to impress me with his signs. He is the only one in his Junior Kindergarten class who wants to do more work than the teacher asks. (Let's hope this continues!) When learning how to print upper case letters he asks if he may also practise the lower case ones. This is very encouraging because I am able to relate his American Sign Language signs with his printed ones.
For example, the lower case "a" is very similar to the ASL "a" and when we practise the ASL alphabet he is able to make the correlation.
I've heard that some regions are using gestures to assist with reading and literacy skills. This makes a lot of sense since most people are not just visual learners. Many are visual learners, auditory learners, kinisthetic learners or a combination of these. But instead of using made up gestures why not use a REAL language such as ASL?
Although, Phoenix is verbal (sometimes too verbal - LOL) I will continue to teach him American Sign Language as I believe whole-heartedly that it will assist with his literacy skills. I'll try to find new and exciting ways to introduce ASL to him so that it will continue to be a fun aspect of his life. The more fun he and I have with it, the more he'll want to learn!
There is an eye-opening video with 17-month old Elizabeth Barrett reading. She was signed to by both her speech pathologist parents. If I am not able to link it, I encourage you to do a search on it. It really is amazing!