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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 4: River Beach Primary School Workshops and Project


The aim of this project was to consult children about images of deafness and ways to make books accessible to deaf children. Working with a group of deaf and hearing children, two authors and a translator, the children were given the opportunity to explore deaf characters and how they are portrayed in the books of Italian author Rosa Tiziana Bruno and UK author Julia Donaldson.


The focus was on Zitti’s Cake Shop, (one of the books featured in the first ‘Reading the Way’ research project), by Rosa Tiziana Bruno. ‘Zitti’ features an outstanding pastry chef who is deaf.  He mixes a secret ingredient into his cakes that leave his customers lost for words. The book explores the extraordinary properties of food as a form of communication because understanding does not always need words.

Rosa Tiziana Bruno has created a successful workshop model that she takes into mainstream schools in her native Italy where the children explore the themes of ‘Zitti’ through baking activities.  By adapting this workshop template to fit our own criteria, OIW believed that Rosa, together with translator Denise Muir, would provide a valuable interactive workshop with deaf and hearing children. It would also help OIW collect feedback on the book and to develop resources that could be used in other schools with both deaf and hearing children.

The workshop with Julia Donaldson worked with larger groups of children exploring two of her books featuring sign language and hearing impairment.

The Books

Zitti’s Cake Shop (La pasticceria Zitti)
Rosa Tiziana Bruno, ills. by Ambra Garlashcelli
La Margherita Edizioni, 2011

Zitti’s Cake Shop explores the extraordinary properties of food as a form of communication because understanding does not always need words.

Freddie and the Fairy
Julia Donaldson, ills. by Karen George
Macmillan, 2010

Freddie is delighted when he meets a fairy called Bessie-Belle who offers to grant his every wish.  The problem is that the fairy can’t hear very well so all Freddie’s wishes come out wrong because he mumbles.

What the Jackdaw Saw
Julia Donaldson, ills. by Nick Sharratt
Macmillan, 2015

Jackdaw is flying into danger!  The other animals try to warn him, but he doesn’t understand the signs they are using. A story about friendship and sign language written by a group of deaf children with Julia Donaldson in a workshop run by The Life and Deaf Association.

The Artists

Italian sociologist, teacher and author Rosa Tiziana Bruno, translator Denise Muir and author Julia Donaldson all have a strong interest in deafness.  We had worked with Rosa and Denise previously and knew they were keen to collaborate further on Zitti’s Cake Shop.

The School

OIW selected River Beach, a mainstream primary school with a Special Support Centre, (one of only two Primary Support Centres for deaf children in West Sussex).  The pupils in the SSC all have a significant hearing loss and are supported by a Teacher of the Deaf and six Special Support Assistants who are experienced in working with deaf children. We had worked with the school in the first RtW project and knew they were very keen to work on a project involving deaf and hearing children using ‘Zitti’ as a theme.


Johnan Bannier, head of the SSC, staff from the SSC and Deborah Hallford, OIW.

Workshop 1:

Date:   23 January 2017.
Participants:  The workshop involved two sessions: The morning comprised of 12 pupils from Y3, Y4, Y5 and Y6 – six from the Special Support Centre for Deaf Children (SSC) and six hearing children.  The afternoon comprised of ten pupils from YR, Y1 and Y2 – six from the SSC and four hearing children. Length:   Two 90 minute sessions.


The workshop aimed to introduce the pupils to the author and translator of Zitti’s Cake Shop and to explore the themes of the book through baking activities. 

Report: (NB Individual report for each workshop session)

Morning Session

The workshop began with Rosa and Denise being introduced to the group.  The teacher explained that Rosa came from another country and spoke a different language so she needed an interpreter (Denise) who could translate her words into English.  The children were asked where they thought Rosa came from. Answers ranged from places in the UK, Spain, Greece, China, until one child guessed Italy.

Rosa read a page of Zitti’s Cake Shop in Italian.  One Y4 boy, who is deaf and also on the autistic spectrum, had not originally wanted to attend the workshop but changed his mind at the last minute, mentioned that he spoke Spanish.  As Rosa read he appeared to be signing the Italian words.

Denise then read the story in English with the book being held up and the pages turned so the children could follow the illustrations.  The story was also signed by the teacher. In order to ensure that the children were engaged and were following the story they were asked questions about the illustrations. 

Rosa explained that the word ‘zitti’ in Italian was both an adjective and a verb meaning ‘silence’. She said that silence is the most important thing that we need to understand each other. Words are very important but we need some silence to understand them.  Rosa said that it was possible to belong to a silent world if you could not communicate. She experiences this when she is in a different country surrounded by people who are speaking a different language that she cannot understand.

Rosa told the children that when she was growing up her mother did not speak very much but she showed her love by cooking all her favourite dishes. Through cooking she was able to express her feelings.

Practical Activity

The children made a biscuit mixture following instructions from the teacher.  As they were mixing the flour, sugar and butter in a bowl, they were asked to think about a secret ingredient they might add into the bowl before the mixture was made into a dough. The bowl was passed round in silence as everyone sprinkled in their secret ingredient.

Author Rosa Tiziana Bruno and pupils from River Beach School
©Photo Deborah Hallford

The children were asked what they thought of the dough mixture – how it felt to touch, what it smelt like.  They came up with all sorts of answers (including squishy, like Play-Doh, and looks like a human brain) but noted that when the dough was ready to roll out it became smooth, pliable and rough on the inside.

Every child had a turn at rolling out the mixture ready for cutting the biscuit shapes.  There were three different cutters – heart shape, round and crinkly. 

While the children were waiting for the biscuits to cook, they did some drawings that represented their secret ingredient. 

When asked to tell everyone their secret ingredient the answers included:

People be happy and enjoy their time
Importance of family
A drop of happiness
Smile - I am a gypsy (because the child was descended from a travelling family)
Super speed - Indestructible

Rosa asked the children what they thought of Mr Zitti – one child answered ‘Mr Silence’ was special because he made special cakes.  She then asked them what they would have done in Mr Zitti’s position.  The children’s answers ranged from: he would have opened a library, opened a café and would have murdered the whole town.

Afternoon Session

The afternoon session with the younger age group began with a storytelling session of ‘Zitti’ as it allowed them to engage with the illustrations and participate in the story. The teacher asked the children if they would like some cake pointing to the front cover of the book.  Each child reached out and touched the book pretending to take a cake; they were asked what sort of cake they had – chocolate, caramel, toffee, chocolate ice cream, chocolate chip. They interacted with the story as they were asked what they could smell and to think of something secret that might go into the cake.

Practical Activity

The children mixed up the ingredients to make cup-cakes passing two bowls around so each child could stir the mixture.

The teacher asked the children if they remembered in the story that Mr Zitti had mixed a secret ingredient into the bowl and explained that Mr Zitti’s secret was silence, quiet which he stirred into the mixture.

Todd Parr flashcards were used to help the children select their secret ingredient. The children silently sprinkled their secret ingredient into the bowl.

Pupils from River Beach School ©Photo Deborah Hallford

While the cup-cakes were baking the children did some drawing inspired by the illustrations from ‘Zitti’. The children then told the group what their secret ingredient had been.  Two children chose ‘brave’, two children chose ‘happy’, ‘calm’, ‘quiet’, ‘loud’, ‘cuddly’.

Workshop Feedback from Children of River Beach

What did you enjoy most about the workshop?

  • How we all took time to make the biscuits.
  • I enjoyed cooking and trying to be Mr Zitti, with our ingredients
  • That we got to be like Mr Zitti with our secret ingredient
  • My favourite bit about the workshop was making the cookies!
  • Cooking and being read the story
  • Making the sugary cookies
  • Eating the biscuits

What did you think of the story?

  • I think it’s a great story and it tells a great tale
  • I thought it was amazing how sometimes not speaking can be a good thing. Loved it.
  • It shows how silence can be a good thing including different ways to express yourself.
  • I liked it so I think it should be published (in English)
  • It was fantastic
  • A delicious wonder, a fantastic book with beautiful illustrations and a wonderful moral.
  • Excellent
  • Exciting

What about the illustrations?

  • They are very meaningful and have good detail and express a story through pictures.
  • It shows how busy the town can be and what the cake shop looked like. I loved them.
  • They showed what the town was like and the cake shop that would make better than just writing so I like them.
  • They were great but you could add more colour.
  • Amazing.
  • Beautiful, elegant art.
  • We liked the drawings

Do you think the book had a message? What was the message?

  • Yes I do! The message is that in order to hear you must be quiet and in order to be heard you must speak in silence.
  • That not speaking can be a good thing
  • I think the message was silence is a good thing
  • I think the message was that everyone is different and we should be grateful for it.
  • I think it had a message which was to listen to each other and understand each other.
  • Silence


River Beach started an Able Writers group and an Able Writers After School Club for children who had participated in the ‘Zitti’ workshop and also other children who were interested in writing and illustrating. Using the themes from ‘Mr Zitti’ and the cooking workshops as a stimulus, their brief was to include a disabled/disadvantaged character, and 'issue' and a resolution which centred around cake/food. Seven children completed very varied and well written and illustrated stories.

Johnan Bannier, Head of Special Support Centre for Deaf Children at River Beach Primary School described how valuable the project had been to the school:

“We were fortunate to have the opportunity to work with Outside In World for a project to encourage and inspire children to write. Our school has a unit for deaf children aged from 5 - 11 years who all integrate into the mainstream classes through the school."

"A group was set up to write their own stories. The parameters given (for the project) were to choose a character who has an 'issue' which could be physical, social, emotional - just whatever the children chose to write about. The problem was to be resolved in their story through eating a cake.

The group met together weekly for about six weeks and produced a very imaginative and diverse set of stories of which they were rightly very proud. It was a lovely opportunity for children who enjoy writing to let their imagination and vocabulary run wild, but with guidance and editing discussions to keep their work on track to produce a cohesive story at the end.

We really valued the opportunity to run this unusual and inspiring project in which disabled and non-disabled children could explore a new take on inclusion and diversity.”

Translator Denise Muir: "Being able to read out the English version of the story, the way I'd felt it and imagined it in my head, see it come alive in the children's eyes as they watched and listened, then take on yet another new life in their secret ingredients and their drawings, was a truly wonderful experience."

Author Rosa Tiziana Bruno: “A special day. The workshop with the River Beach school children was a very emotional moment for me. I am used to doing workshops in schools; I meet hundreds of children every year, but in Littlehampton the children surprised me greatly with their curious questions, their attentive and eager looks, with their small and industrious hands in the kitchen, after reading the book.

The power of literature is immense: a fable has managed to stir up questions and free emotions. A good way to grow and learn to overcome obstacles by turning them into opportunities. I can only be happy.”

Workshop 2:

Date:   7 June 2017.
Participants:  90 children from Year 2 and the SSC. Length:  Two 60 minute sessions.


The aim was to introduce and focus on some of the titles that Julia Donaldson has written featuring sign language and hearing impairment. Although these workshop sessions took a more conventional format with larger groups of children we used this unique opportunity for Julia to meet some of the children specifically involved in the ‘Zitti’ project allowing them to share and read their stories with her.


Julia, accompanied by her husband Malcolm, used a combination of drama and music to explore some of her books. 

In the morning session the children had lots of fun acting out two stories:  What the Jackdaw Saw – a story about friendship and sign language written by a group of deaf children with Julia – and Freddie and the Fairy – about a fairy that can’t hear very well and a protagonist who mumbles so the wishes come out wrong – where the children took on animal roles.

Author Julia Donaldson, pupils and teacher from River Beach School
©Photo Alexandra Strick

In the afternoon session the children joined in singing and learning to sign the ‘Monkey Puzzle’ song and acted out Julia’s latest book The Giant Jumperee.

Julia then spent time with the group of children who have been working on the ‘Zitti’ project hearing some of the stories they have written inspired by the book.

Author Julia Donaldson and pupils from River Beach School
©Photo Alexandra Strick


Johnan Bannier, Head of SSC for Deaf Children commented:

“Our visit from well-known children's author Julia Donaldson was a subject of great excitement for all the school. Pupils, parents and teachers alike all seemed to have a favourite book and were looking forward to meeting the person who wrote so many well-loved stories.

Julia's story books ‘What the Jackdaw Saw’ and the ‘Freddie and the Fairy’ came to life as she directed the cohort of year 2 children with props, masks and snippets of dialogue to participate in a dramatic replay of the stories. These two stories touch on the theme of deafness, particularly relevant for us as we have a number of deaf children at the school, of different ages, learning and playing alongside their hearing peers. At the end of the day we had a huge turn-out for the pop-up bookshop and book signing organised by Steyning Bookshop and those waiting in the long queues were delightfully entertained by Julia's husband Malcolm treating us to impromptu songs with his guitar.

Thank you to Outside in World for organising such a valuable and memorable experience for our pupils which we  all remember and talk about  whenever we pick up a Julia Donaldson book.”

River Beach School Project Stories inspired by Zitti's Cake Shop



     Faye's Story




    Sienna's Story



    Harry's Story



    Luca's Story



    Ruby's Story







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