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Reading the Way 2 Welcome RtW2 News Project Report Executive Summary Introduction Aims and Objectives Our Approach Outcomes Case Study 1: New College Worcester Case Study 2: St Elizabeth's Case Study 3: Sacred Heart Case Study 4: River Beach Case Study 5: UEA Case Study 6: Guildford Grove Recommendations Bibliography Resource Guide Reading the Way Research Activities Articles Booklists News Flash Information & Resources Anniversary Book Selections

Case Study 3: Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School Workshops and Project


This project aimed to explore the many ways in which a picture book could be made more accessible to children with different needs, particularly those with communication difficulties. 


The first Reading the Way project identified several books featuring communication symbols.  These books proved of great interest during the project, appearing to have the potential to be of both interest and benefit to disabled children and non-disabled children alike. 

We were keen to explore this further.  We wanted to know more about the value of adding communication symbols to a mainstream book, as well as exploring other ways of making a mainstream book accessible to children with communication difficulties and other conditions. 

The Books

We made use of a range of accessible titles identified during the first RtW programme to provide inspiration for this workshop.  These included books with symbols, simplified text and tactile elements.  We then also used a book published in the UK as a basis for trying out similar accessible approaches as well as other ways of improving accessibility.

Zeraffa Giraffa
Dianne Hofmeyr, ills. by Jane Ray
Frances Lincoln Children's Books, 2015
Language: English

Zeraffa Giraffa is the true story of a giraffe who was sent as a gift from the ruler of Egypt to the King of France in 1826.  A young boy, Atir takes care of Zeraffa on her epic journey from Africa to Paris. 

Other Titles Explored:

I Feel a Foot
Marante Rinck, ills. Martijn Van Der Linden
Karadi Tales, India, 2008
Tactile, Language: English

Adaptation from an old Sufi story of five men in the dark who come across an elephant. Not knowing what it is, each feels and imagines something different. I Feel a Foot mirrors this experience and through tactile sensation, brings colourful animals to life.

‘Pesci Parlanti’ (talking fish) a series of classic fairy tales featuring PCS, designed for children with autism created by Enza Crivelli, a specialist in autism, and editor at Uovonero. The books 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.


Little Red Riding Hood (Capuccetto Rosso)
Ills. Peppo Biachessi, 2010
The Wolf and Seven Kids (Il Lupo e I Sette Capretti), Ills. Andrea Alemanno, 2010.

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

Pelle embarks on a space adventure to find his friend the professor’s dog Lajka, who has been taken hostage in order to force the professor to hand over his book of inventions. 'Pelle' has been adapted using Widgit symbols with the original illustrations, but the Swedish text has been simplified for children with reading disabilities.

The Artist

We chose to work with Jane Ray, knowing her to be an artist with an existing interest in inclusivity and also in communication symbols.

The School

We approached a mainstream school with a unit supporting children on the Autistic Spectrum, who we knew to use communication symbols.


A member of the OIW team facilitated the sessions, working closely with the school staff and the artist.

Workshop 1:

Date:    6 December 2016.
Participants:   Two sessions, each involving 30 Year 2 children.  A couple of the children in each group were in the Hilary House unit for children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder.
Length:    30 minutes per session.


The workshop aimed to introduce the children to the work of Jane Ray.  It particularly focused on the book Zeraffa Giraffa, the story of a giraffe sent by the ruler of Egypt as gift to the King of France in 1827.  The workshop aimed to ‘set the scene’ for a project which the school would then run looking at the book in more detail, in relation to accessibility.


After a brief introduction by the teaching staff, Jane Ray began with an introduction to what she does and how she works.  She checked the children’s understanding of the terms ‘author’ and ‘illustrator’.  

She then asked the children what they knew about the book, Zeraffa Giraffa. They discussed the fact that it is a true story, a story which all agreed to be extraordinary.   

Jane then read the book to the children, checking their understanding of any less familiar concepts and words (like ‘felucca’ and ‘soiree’).


Illustrator Jane Ray reading ‘Zeraffa Giraffa’ to the pupils of Sacred Heart School ©Photo Alexandra Strick

Jane then went on to show the children some examples of original artwork from the book.  She started with the cover artwork, encouraging them to spot differences between the original artwork and final cover (such as the spine, title, author and illustrator, publisher and blurb). The children surprised her by noticing many smaller details that had also changed.  Jane talked about her use of collage as a medium.

She then began to draw them a giraffe on the flipchart, and they discussed what they knew about giraffes as she drew.  The children impressed her with their knowledge, for example stating that a giraffe’s spots are always unique and telling her that they had recently learned the word ‘ossicones’ (the horn-like stumps on the giraffe’s head).

Volunteers came up to help Jane with the drawing and Jane did some initial colouring, being directed by the children.  She then left the picture with them on the understanding that they would complete it for her after she had left.

Jane then shared several ideas for activities that the school could try during their project, including creating giraffe masks with collage patterning, and making a long, tall book in the style of a giraffe.

The children had the chance to ask some questions, and were clearly interested to know more about the story.  They discussed the absurd idea of choosing to give a giraffe as a gift, the extraordinary nature of the journey and the ethics of buying things or giving presents which come from different countries and/or might involve some cruelty.

They imagined what it might have been like to suddenly see a giraffe in the city of Paris.  The discussed how astonishing it would be to see an unusual-looking animal like a giraffe for the first time.

The staff and children thanked Jane and promised to show her the results of the project they would undertake over the coming weeks. 

The project 

Over the subsequent 12 weeks, the school then embarked on a project involving a wide range of ways of making Zeraffa Giraffa more accessible to different audiences.  For example, this included creating an abridged version of the story, making tactile pictures and using communication symbols to support the story.

Alex loaned the school several books from around the world (to be returned at the follow-up workshop) to help inspire the children working on the project.  (see above)

Workshop 2:

Date:    24 February 2017.
Participants:   Two sessions, each involving 30 Year 2 children.  A couple of the children in each group were in the Hilary House unit for children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder.
Length:    40 minutes per session

The workshop involved two sessions each with a different class of Year 2 children, each including 30 children.  A couple of the children in each group were in the Hilary House unit for children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder.


Over the period of six weeks since the first workshop, the children had been exploring ways of making Zeraffa Giraffa more accessible to different audiences. 

On this follow-up visit, the staff and children shared what they had achieved.

We were first shown around one of the classrooms around which many of the children’s creations were displayed.  These included:

  • Giant Zeraffa models – an adult (well over 6ft tall) and a baby (nearly 5ft tall), made by the children, using a wide range of tactile materials.
  • Collage-style cloaks made by the children from different fabrics, to drape around the giraffes.
  • One child had even made a bird at home and brought it in to sit on the giraffe’s back, as they had learned that some birds do this in the wild.
  • Giraffe puppets and masks made by the children.
  • A box of props including an amulet, crown, etc.
  • Lego giraffes.
  • Book reviews.
  • Simpler retellings of the story, in the children’s own words.
  • Instructions on transporting a giraffe to Paris.
  • A version of Zeraffa Giraffa supported by Communication In Print symbols.        


Project work on ‘Zeraffa’ from the students of Sacred Heart School
©Photo Alexandra Strick

Nicky Christie also described how the OIW books (which included the Italian symbol-supported books, Pelle in Space and the tactile book I Feel a Foot) had been used.   All had been shown to the children, who were particularly interested in I Feel a Foot.  None of them had ever come across braille before and they were really fascinated by it. The books were of great interest and inspiration. 

Nicky Christie told us - “I cannot emphasise this strongly enough.”

The children from both classes then filed into the classroom and were re-introduced to Jane.  Jane said a few words to the children.  Together with the children, we then watched a video of one of the two classes acting out the story of Zeraffa Giraffa.  The quality of the production was astonishing, with full costumes, music, flags and sound effects, and the children all having learnt their parts by heart.

Then we had nearly an hour to tour both the classrooms and chat to the children about the project. We visited each table, talking to every child in both the two classrooms.

Each child had on their desk their own book of 'giraffe' inspired work.  At each table, the children showed us their books and each child talked us through some of the many activities they had done and what they had learned from the project.   Each book included a non-fiction report-writing activity (aimed at helping children to learn about giraffes and their habitat), then the instructions for moving a giraffe, the child’s own retelling of the story featuring their ‘own’ giraffe character and location and a pictorial/visual retelling of the story.

Particularly interesting were the children’s own versions of the story.  They were very keen to talk to us about where they had each chosen to send their giraffe and why, examples including New York, Italy, France, Ghana and the Philippines.  The children who had connections with the countries to which they had sent their giraffe told us about this with pride. There were some very ‘political’ discussions, about whether it would be fair to send a giraffe to New York in the current climate!  The children were all very aware of Donald Trump, with some being very clear about what they thought of him (“he’s a racist” one boy told me), others not so sure (one called him "Donald Duck").

On several of the tables, they talked with us about what it would be like to move from your home, without your family.  They had also taken part in a kind of ‘moral dilemma’ style debate about whether it was wrong or write to move Zeraffa to Paris, and were happy to share the results of this activity with us.  Most children felt it was wrong, while some felt that there were positive and negative aspects of the experience.  A few felt it was a positive experience.  Some pointed out that Zeraffa might have been safer being looked after than she would have been in the wild, and commented that people would not otherwise be able to see a real giraffe.  But most felt concerned for Zeraffa, and felt that there was a sad side to the story.  Some talked about their own experiences having been born (or having family) in a country other than the UK.   The children commented on the fact that they particularly liked this book being based on a true story.

Also particularly noteworthy was the CIP supported version of the story.  The member of staff from Hillary House told us how she had worked on it with the children and how it was used to help them explore the story.  One or two of the children from Hillary House were present and were reading this version of the book while we took our tour.

The children and staff talked about the value of the project and the impact of Jane’s visit.  We all agreed that the project had been a resounding success. The choice of author and book was excellent and there was a sense that the children would have liked the book anyway, as giraffes make for a popular theme and the book is particularly attractive. However, both staff and children agreed that the involvement of OIW and the opportunity to meet Jane had dramatically enhanced their enjoyment of the book and their enthusiasm for the subsequent activity.  The scope of activities in which they were involved was extensive and the element of exploring ways of interpreting and retelling the story in accessible ways added a powerful dimension to the whole experience.


Nicola Christie of Sacred Heart School told us:

Taking part in this project was really enjoyable for our pupils and valuable to the school as a whole.  The combination of meeting a ‘real’ children’s book creator and being introduced to books from around the world featuring tactile elements, symbols and braille really helped to broaden the children’s horizons and stimulate imaginations.  Zeraffa Giraffa formed the perfect basis for an in-school project, using what we had learned to experiment with different ways of exploring the book and making it fully accessible for all children.  The children thoroughly enjoyed acting the story out, creating tactile elements and working with the staff to make a symbol-supported version."







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