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Reading the Way 2 Reading the Way Research Welcome Executive Summary Introduction Objectives Our Book Selection Our Research Outcomes Key Findings Accessible Books Inclusive Books Translation Challenges Accessible Books in Brief Inclusive Books in Brief Recommendations Case Study 1: Featuring Symbols Case Study 2: Featuring Signs Case Study 3: Accessible and Inclusive Books Case Study 4: She and the Others Case Study 5: Alice's Heart Case Study 6: Lorenzo's Saucepan Case Study 7: Zitti's Cake Shop Case Study 8: Books Relevant to Visual Impairment Publicity Seminars Bibliography Activities Articles Booklists News Flash Information & Resources Anniversary Book Selections

Accessible Books in Brief


The sections are broken down into the following: 

Accessible Books (including books which feature braille, signs, symbols, tactile elements or other accessible formats) 

i. Visual Impairment 
ii. Deafness
iii. Symbols
iv. Tactile elements and large format
i. Visual Impairment

i. Visual Impairment 


For this strand of the project activity, we looked particularly at the need for books in braille, as well as general accessibility for those who are visually impaired, and how the UK industry might develop in terms of best practice.   

Visual impairment and braille in the UK 

There are almost two million visually impaired people in the UK. 

Only a small number of those people will read braille (as few as 1%).  However, this statistic can be misleading and it is important not to underestimate the value of braille to those who are able to use it. Braille literacy is a blind child's equivalent to textual literacy.  As such, many see teaching braille as vital in terms of giving blind children equality and the right to read and write.  

Braille is a tactual reading system that was invented by Louis Braille in France in the mid-1800s. It enables children who are unable to read print to become literate and helps adults who lose the ability to read, due to blindness or low vision, to continue reading. 

The braille alphabet is based upon a 'cell' that is composed of six dots, arranged in two columns of three dots each. Each braille letter of the alphabet or other symbol, such as a comma, is formed by using one or more of the six dots that are contained in the braille cell.  Braille can be Grade 1 (which is uncontracted – so written ‘in full’) or Grade 2 (where contractions are used to make words shorter, generally used by older, more confident braille readers).  Recent years have seen the introduction of a new Unified English Braille (UEB). UEB took over twenty years to develop. It is being adopted in all the major English-speaking countries such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Nigeria, South Africa, USA and the UK.


Selected Books

Spaghetti Joe Goes into the Wide World
(ˇga špaget gre v širni svet)
Aksinja Kermauner, illustrator Zvonko Coh MIŠ, Slovenia, 21pp, 2010
(Braille and Tactile) Language: Slovenian 

Spaghetti Joe is a highly unusual picture book (about a strand of spaghetti who escapes from a cooking pot) which can be read, touched and even smelt. The large watercolour illustrations by Slovene artist Zvonko Coh are depicted as life-size and is produced in ring-bound format, with the story in both text and braille, several tactile illustrations and even with some smells! OIW concluded that the book had proved to be one of the most entertaining for the children.  In terms of accessibility, the book demonstrated good practice in terms of the sensory appeal and the inclusion of braille

Together, Dots Make a Picture
(Jeomi Moyeu Moyeo)
(Reading Fingers Series)
Jeong-soon Um, Changbi Publishers, Korea, 24pp, 2008 Language: Korean 

Presented in accordion-style format, this unusual book shows dots form a trail and merge together to make a line and then shapes which allows visually impaired children to trace the different objects with their fingers. It was obviously the intention of the publisher to create a memorable book which is unusual and playful in terms of format and with which readers would be able to use their imagination to create stories.  OIW commends the book for its creativity and found that its distinctive format definitely succeeded in attracting the interest of children and adults.  However, one of the key learning points from the focus group with New College Worcester was that not only does the braille need to be of an appropriate height and size for braille-readers, but also that it would be helpful if the braille could be more clearly visible to the eye (in this book it is white on a white background). 


Twelve Birds
Kim Hee-kyoung
Changbi Publishers, Korea, 60pp, 2012
(Braille and Tactile) Language: Korean 

Twelve Birds features the Korean braille alphabet and embossed elements that can be felt with the hands.  Different birds are used to depict particular feelings by likening them to their specific characteristics and the text is quite abstract and whimsical.  OIW feels that the book boasts an appealing poetic quality and that the delicate pastel illustrations are attractive, although they would probably not be strong enough to be accessible to a child with any kind of visual impairment and the prominence of the braille was also raised as a concern by the focus group.


Two tactile books that are similar in make-up are Touch Me and The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Both use different materials for the tactile elements of their books.


Touch Me
Seon-hee Kim and Dan-ah Kim
BF Books, Korea, 18pp, 2009 (tactile and braille), Language: English 

Touch Me is a tactile book about animals and birds.  The text is in large print and braille.  On each double page the text is printed on the left-hand side and the animal, made from thick felt, is placed on a transparent plastic sheet. This allows the reader to lift the plastic to feel the skin or fur of the animal.  Various materials are used including leather, fake fur and sequins to imitate the real feel of animals. The text is also provided on an audio CD.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar
(Dreaming Fingers Series)
Eric Carle, Karadi Tales, India, 2006
(Braille and Tactile) Language: English 

Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar has been lovingly created by hand into a tactile and braille version for VI and sighted children. The colourful collage illustrations, on specially prepared paper, have used 34 different textured materials.  Contours are explored as an added dimension of shapes through the use of multi-layered and embroidered elements.

Touch Me and The Very Hungry Caterpillar would generally be too expensive to produce in a mainstream publishing setting. The challenge of producing the above two books in terms of bringing it to a UK audience would be the stringent UK safety standards that they would need to meet.  These safety tests will often mean such books are unlikely to make it onto the bookshelves of UK children. High production costs are also a major challenge - these books are hand-made which means that the retail price could be high. OIW would like to see ways of making such valuable books available, perhaps by exploring opportunities to part-subsidise, in order to ensure viability for a commercial partner and an affordable price for the end user.


ii. Deafness 


There are very few mainstream children’s books featuring signs or signing in the UK.  Sometimes mainstream books are translated into British Sign Language (BSL) and this is much needed, but there is also a need for 'original' books which feature signs from the start. 

There are over nine million registered deaf or hard of hearing people in the UK, 700,000 of whom are profoundly deaf. 

BSL is the language of the deaf community in the UK. It involves the hands, body, face and head. Many thousands of people who are not deaf also use BSL, as hearing relatives of deaf people, sign language interpreters or as a result of other contact with the British deaf community. 

BSL is the British equivalent of American Sign Language (ASL).  Other forms of signing exist such as Makaton (widely used in special educational needs settings because it is simpler to use and ideal for those with a range of communication and learning difficulties) and Sign Supported English, which uses BSL signs, but the structure and grammar is based on spoken English (often used in schools where deaf children are taught alongside hearing children.)


Selected Books


Talking Hands (Beszél a kéz)
Tamas Vincze (text) & Mari Takacs (Ill.)
Csimota Publishing House, Hungary, 44pp, 2004 Language: Hungarian (with Hungarian sign language) 

This is a simple and structured book with an illustrated animal on every page, accompanied by its name (in Hungarian) and the associated sign (also Hungarian). The watercolour illustrations are bright and bold with one-word text to describe the animal, while the opposite page shows signs in pictures and with hands.  The overall response to Talking Hands was positive.  It was agreed amongst our experts that sign language dictionaries tend to be quite 'dry' and that there would be a definite market for books such as this, which were more attractive and imaginative.

Humbug (Vaker)
Tamas Vincze (text) & Mari Takacs (Ill.)
Csimota Publishing House, Hungary, 44pp, 2007 Language: Hungarian
(with Hungarian sign language) 

Humbug is a similar style format to Talking Hands but is completely different in its content, being aimed at an older audience and covering a diverse range of subjects. It includes 'slang' words that would be readily understood by young people. The design of the book is very much concerned with its graphics. Translator Jennifer Rasell felt this book aimed to show how deaf people are not restricted in how they communicate and are just like any other young people who like to adopt 'cool' new expressions. 

As with Talking Hands, this is a book which definitely represents good practice in terms of both including sign language, but also doing so in a stylish and contemporary way.  OIW considers that while a translation for UK audiences would not be straightforward due to the complexities of translating the Hungarian sign language and also the slang, there is much to learn from the books in terms of the unusual and eye-catching presentation of signs.


OIW identified two other titles which we feel are worth commenting on briefly:

Kaitlin the Cat and her Clan of Mice
(H Gata Koumbara)
S. Mitakidou, E. Tressou and A. L. Manna (text)
S. Fortoma (Ill.) Kaleidoscope Publications, 2006. Language: Greek 

This title from Greece is produced in several different formats – standard book format and large format with accompanying audio CD and an eBook signed version available through the publishers' website. OIW concluded that children’s books should be available in as many formats as possible.

Listen to My Hands (Escucha mis manos)
Alvarito Cuevas (text), Raúl Ramón Ramírez, (photos), Ediciones Tecolote, Mexico, 22pp, 2007 (with sign language). Language: Spanish 

Listen to My Hands is an instructive and simple picture book that uses photographs of a child who cannot hear or speak expressing herself through the use of sign language.  OIW feels that there is a need for books such as this in terms of featuring young deaf people signing.  The photographs allow for facial expressions, which make the signs easier to read and the message more powerful.  The layout is simple and effective and the book as a whole is attractive and interactive. (See Case Study 2)


iii. Books Featuring Symbols 

Introduction – language and symbols

Recent research has shown that two to three children in every UK classroom have significant communication difficulties.  A number of different symbol systems exist, designed specifically in order to support communication. These symbol systems are part of what is called Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC). Some of these systems involve the use of gestures or signs, such as sign language and Makaton. Other symbol systems involve pictures or graphics. Including such symbols in a book is rare, but if included they can transform a book for many. They provide a simple, visual way of aiding communication and comprehension. Their addition can create the vital difference for some children, a connection with stories and illustrations they cannot otherwise understand.  

Picture Communication Symbols (PCS) 

PCS are simple images that represent everything from single words to full messages.  They were originally designed for developing communication aids. 

Widgit Symbols 

Developed in the UK and previously known as Rebus Symbols and Widgit Literacy Symbols. They were developed to support literacy and to help make information accessible to those struggling with traditional orthography. 

OIW found two examples of books including symbols, one series of board books from Italy featuring PCS symbols and one picture book from Sweden featuring Widgit symbols. 


Selected Books   

‘Pesci Parlanti’ series Published by Uovonero Language: Italian 

This is a series of classic fairy tales featuring PCS, designed for children with autism created by Enza Crivelli of Uovonero.  There are seven titles in the series: 




  • Goldilocks and the Three Bears/Riccioli d’Oro e I tre orsi – Peppo Biachessi (Ill.), 2012
  • Jack and the Beanstalk/Giacomino e il fagiolo magico – Peppo Biachessi (Ill.), 2012
  • Little Red Riding Hood/Cappuccetto Rosso – Peppo Biachessi (Ill.), 2010
  • Rapunzel/Raperonzolo – Antonio Boffa (Ill.), 2012
  • Snow White/Biancaneve – Di Tommaso di Incalci (Ills), 2014
  • The Three Little Pigs/I tre Porcellini – Matteo Gubellini (Ills), 2011
  • The Wolf and Seven Kids/Il Lupo e I Sette Capretti – Andrea Alemanno (Ills), 2013

The board picture books feature classic fairy tales and are designed specifically to be more accessible to those with reduced communication skills.  Clear illustrations are printed on the right-hand side, while the story is structured in simple sentences accompanied by PCS on the left-hand side.  The pages are softly curved and feature a unique 'easy turn' format. 

The aim was very much to make classic fairy tales accessible to children with autism, whilst also ensuring suitability for pre-school children or those with reading difficulties.  Uovonero designed the book to be easy to use for autistic children, while at the same time ensuring these children feel they are reading a book not noticeably different to their non-autistic peers. 

OIW believe the inclusion of symbols in a book is to be applauded and that this should be the case somewhere within the vast mainstream children’s book landscape too.  This series is particularly exciting, with its range of different stories, diverse types of illustration and its easy-to-use board book format. It was clear that several of the books were more popular than others, due to good choice of both illustrator and fairy story.

Pelle in Space (Pelle på planetfärd)
Jan Lööf, Specialpedagogiska Skolmyndigheten, (SPSM), Umeå, Sweden (The National Agency for Special Needs Education and Schools), 2010 Originally published by Bonnier Carlson, Sweden, 2010 Language: Swedish 

'Pelle' (a space adventure) has been adapted using Widgit symbols. All of the original illustrations remain, but the Swedish language version is simplified for children with reading disabilities and the story is told in easy text printed beneath the Widgit symbols. 

'Pelle' had much to offer special school settings. The abridged text and Widgit symbols made the book accessible to many audiences who would otherwise struggle with the language and length of the original version.  For some children with severe learning difficulties and/or communication difficulties, the text could even benefit from being simpler still.   However, for the mass market, the abridged text appeared to have lost something compared with the original full-length story.  It became clear to OIW that in an ideal world, this book (like many) would benefit from being made available in several different formats, including an abridged, sign-supported version for children with communication difficulties. (See Case Study 1)


iv. Other Tactile Elements and Large Format


Over the course of our research, OIW came across books which offered other forms of tactile interest, such as die-cut holes and moveable/sliding elements.  We also came across books in large format.  OIW are aware that both die-cut books and large format books exist in the UK book landscape (as well as books which feature flaps to lift, tabs to pull and wheels to turn), however, we felt that it would be useful to find out whether our focus groups thought there was a value in such books where children with additional needs are concerned.  We wanted to know whether there was a sense that more such books are needed, and if the books we had come across were particularly effective examples. 

We therefore included two books in some of our focus group activity to gauge interest and collect feedback.

In the Blue Night: With Your Own Finger
(Nella Notte blu: Con un ditino)
Gabriele Clima, La Coccinella, Italy, 2014
Language: Italian 

A book inviting children to interact with the illustrations, using die-cut holes and sliding mechanisms to transform the images. Our project confirmed that books like this have great potential in terms of using die-cut holes and / or sliding/moving mechanisms, particularly where the shapes of the holes are meaningful and varied and where the sliding mechanism has an immediate and clear effect on what children see on the page.  However, it is imperative that the mechanisms are easy to operate, particularly for children who may have additional needs (e.g. those who may have difficulties with fine motor skills), but also for all children.

Tina Thumb Tack (H Mairn Pineza)
ula Mitakidou, Evangelia Tressou (text)
Apostolos Vettas (Ill.), Kaleidoscope Publications, Greece, 2011
Language: Greek (large format) 

Tina Thumb Tack is an unusual and engaging story depicting the adventures of a drawing pin (or 'thumb tack') called Tina.  The large, bright illustrations and references to travel clearly appealed to the young readers with whom we shared it.  Despite not having an English translation by the side of the Greek text, the children in the focus groups were able to follow the story easily.  Some of the key observations from the groups were that: 

  • large format books were good for group work.
  • particularly good for children who will never read.
  • ideal for students with additional needs.
  • large format books are the same price as all other picture books. 

Accessible and Inclusive Books


Within the accessible range of books OIW looked at, there were two titles that could be identified as both 'accessible' in terms of including braille and 'inclusive' because the story itself was directly relevant to visual impairment.


The Ghost Story (El Cuento Fantasma)
Jaime Gamboa (text) Wen Hsu Chen (ill.)
Grupo Amanuense, 2012
Language: Spanish 

The Ghost Story is the unusual story of a braille book that thinks it is a 'ghost' because its pages are blank and no one ever borrows it from the shelves of the library. Then it is 'discovered' by a blind girl who runs her fingers over its white pages to reveal the story within. Translated into English by Daniel Hahn for the project and with the exquisite and unusual illustrations by Hsu Wen Chen, whose technique combines watercolour and paper cutting, OIW felt that The Ghost Story was fresh, different and would bring something new to the UK market.  

Working with Access2Books to create a mock-up with braille was a very positive experience and offered valuable insight into best practice, whilst also ensuring our visually impaired focus group could access the story.  The feedback from the various focus groups and from the RNIB suggested that the inclusion of braille represented a positive extra dimension for the book. (See Case Study 3)

Seeing in the Dark
[working title for the purposes of this project] (Noir/Voir – literally translates as Dark/See)
François David, Motus, France, 2005
Language: French (with braille) 

OIW feel Noir/Voir is an ingenious book, which has much to offer (the blind narrator describes a game she plays with her friends Jessy and Manon in the dark).  It effectively plays with contrast, tactile elements and braille to encourage the reader to consider visual impairment. The title is 'Voir' but the 'V' has an oblique dotted line added to make an 'N' and the cover is black.  The size of the font and the white elements on each page gradually decrease, as the book slowly immerses the reader in darkness, with the final pages being on matte paper and in braille. 

Some of the book’s key strengths lie in its design.  It is highly distinctive, eye-catching and a pleasure to look at. Our focus group consultation suggested that the story was also generally considered to be original, positive and effectively delivered.  It features an idea which visually impaired people can clearly relate to.  The additional philosophical questions ensure the book offers something substantial, generating real thought and discussion. (See Case Study 8)







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