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Serial story ‘Opal & the Secret Code’

Opal & The Secret CodeAuthor Janie Lancaster has created a low-cost, educational project of historical significance for the deaf community (an underserved population) and deaf children who attend your school system with limited communication in sign language. Lancaster’s nine-installment serial is based on a true story with lesson plans, sign Language graphics, pictures and historical information.

“Deaf and hard of hearing children are isolated in their public schools, and often are the only students who use sign language or have no access to sign language at all,” said the Vermont Association for the Deaf in a statement.“Learning is severely limited when a student needs to watch an interpreter every day, and has no one to sign to or talk with.”

The serial story is historical fiction. It will be cherished and valued by the deaf community and add to their true-to-life history as well as promote compassion and understanding in classrooms.

The story is unique because it tells the story of a deaf girl, Opal Fleming, and how in the 1930s, learning American Sign Language opened up a whole new world for her. It shows how her new language made her feel equal to others and not left out in a dark, lonely world.

Opal’s resilient spirit enabled her to overcome so much in her lifetime. She became a well educated, dignified person loved by so many. For 20 years she was a teacher’s aide at the North Carolina School for the Deaf. She died in 2003.

Newspapers may consider sharing this story with readers during this, the 200th Bicentennial of the first American School for the Deaf.

The cost is based on circulation:

  • 5,000 or less: $150
  • 5,001 to 20,000: $250
  • 20,001 to 300,000: $350
  • 300,001 and above: $400
  • Electronic Rights: Secure websites only
Opal Fleming

Opal Fleming

“Opal & The Secret Code” is based on Opal Fleming, who was born in 1931. She was taken to the Oklahoma School for the Deaf by her father after he had learned about the school from a young deaf man he had met on a train. Soon after her arrival at the deaf school, Pa was gone and she discovered that everyone there communicated with a secret code. Opal was determined to figure out that secret code and one day surprise them all … and surprise them she did.

Opal was known as a storyteller in the North Carolina School for the Deaf, where she worked as a teacher’s aide for 20 years. The bonus story, “Moonlit Nights,” is based on one of Opal’s many stories.

There are 4,500 words, seven chapters and a bonus story, as well as pictures for each chapter.

Historical information, lesson plans and sign language graphics are also available.

To obtain the serial, or for more information, contact Janie Lancaster by email or phone (951) 972-0609.



I grew up on the Oklahoma prairie in an old log cabin with Pa, Ma and my older brother and sister. We mostly traveled on foot to the nearby town. Once in a while Pa would hitch up our old gray mare to the wagon and we’d visit Ma’s relatives afar off.

I always seemed to be in some kind of trouble, without really knowing why. My older brother often had to pull me off one of the other kids during a knockout drag-out fight. That’s how I got kicked out of school. The teacher told Pa I was too much for her to handle even though I was a tiny, scrawny, seven year old girl.

All my crying and kicking did me no good. My brother and sister, hand-in-hand, would travel down the dusty narrow path day after day on their way to school. Ma kept a tight grip and a careful eye on me.

But today was different. It was just me and Pa, hand-in-hand, on our way down that dusty path, carpet bag in hand. I waved goodbye to Ma and my brother and sister. This time there were tears in their eyes as they were left behind. I looked back, smiled at them and skipped alongside Pa. I didn’t know where I was going.  I was just glad to be going somewhere with Pa.

Pa didn’t know how to tell me where we were going because I was deaf. Born that way they say. I never did hear a word. Just a loud noise every now and then. It was the greatest thrill to see lightning, to feel the ground rumble under my feet and every now and then hear the sound of thunder.

Soon we got to town.  I saw a big, long train. As we got closer I wondered was Pa taking me on that train? Could it be!

Then we walked right up the iron steps of that train. I leaped into the air and tapped Pa, pointed to myself, then to Pa, and to the train. Pa laughed and nodded his head. He lifted me up onto the train.  There were so many times I had seen the train and begged Pa to let me go for a ride. Now here I was getting on that train. It felt almost too good to be true.

Soon the train rumbled on its way. I pressed my nose against the window and pointed out to Pa every house and every animal I saw along the way. There were so many horses, cows and sheep scattered across the Oklahoma prairie. I’d never seen so many houses and animals in all my life. Not even when Pa took us in the old wagon to visit Ma’s relatives afar off.

Pa sat quietly. He looked sad, his mind was somewhere off from the excitement of the ever-changing view. I didn’t know what Pa was thinking, just that it must be something important. Maybe even something to worry about. It wouldn’t be until almost a year later that I’d understand the story behind us taking this trip together.


Excellent story!

“Opal & The Secret Code” is an excellent story for all children and was well received by both teachers and students.  The story was made available through the Media in Education online program. One teacher provided the following feedback to a survey question after the story ran online, “The students are interested in getting started writing and learning about others different than them and how to be a friend to those who are different.”

— Tracy Hazen, Media in Education Administrator, The Kansas City Star, The Wichita Eagle, Belleville News, Democrat Lexington Herald-Leader, Fort Worth StarTelegram