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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

Executive Summary

 

Background

The first Reading the Way research project set out to identify a range of titles from around the world that might be considered to stand out in terms of being 'accessible' to children with additional needs and/or 'inclusive' (i.e. including disability or disabled characters within the story).

‘Reading the Way 2’ was developed to build on this research and in 2016-2017, supported by the Arts Council of England and the Unwin Charitable Trust, this innovative project set out to work with a range of schools, artists and translators to explore a selection of inclusive and accessible books from around the world and give children a real voice.

UK and International artists involved in the project included illustrator Jane Ray, and authors Julia Donaldson and Susie Day; Italian author Rosa Tiziana Bruno and Austrian author Franz-Joseph Huainigg; translators Daniel Hahn and Denise Muir and book creator and publisher Annie Kubler.

The aims were:

  • to increase awareness of children’s books from around the world
  • to generate discussion about the selected books and, in so doing, collect (and share) valuable learning points for the book world concerning inclusive and accessible literature.

Methodology

The project involved taking authors, illustrators and translators into a number of selected schools (involving a diverse range of students) to take part in innovative and in-depth activity exploring accessibility and inclusivity in books. 

The activity involved workshops using selected books from the first project.  The workshops explored ideas such as what makes the selected books particularly ‘inclusive’ and/or ‘accessible’ and whether they might be improved or enhanced, particularly for UK audiences. 

Crucially, however, in each case an in-school project was also then developed, based on the outcomes of the initial workshop, and generally lasting around 6-8 weeks, enabling the students to analyse the books in greater depth.

Also central to the project was the truly two-way workshop approach, involving UK artists sharing their own experience and books with children, who in turn shared their valuable experience and feedback relating to disability and inclusion to the benefit of book creators in the UK and worldwide.

Examples of activities and participants

The six workshop projects took place in a range of settings including five schools and one university (with students of children’s literature and translation).

The diverse range of students included deaf children, visually impaired students and children with communication difficulties.

Workshop projects included a project involving deaf children working with the author of an Italian book about a deaf pastry chef who adds a secret ingredient (silence) into his recipes. 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.  Highlights included the children baking their own cakes (into which they added their own ideas for secret ingredients) and writing and illustrating their own stories inspired by the inclusive nature of the book.  The second workshop involved the children sharing their stories and ideas with Julia Donaldson whilst also enjoying a lively, interactive performance of two of her books by Julia and husband Malcolm. 

Another project involved working with visually impaired students to explore how a touch and feel book might truly represent the needs and interested of visually impaired children.  Crucial to the project was the uniting of the young people’s experiences and wishes with the commercial knowledge of an experienced book creator and publisher, Annie Kubler of Child’s Play Books. Together the project successfully identified how a tactile book might ensure variety and interest for blind and partially sighted audiences whilst also recognising the commercial, safety and financial constraints of a viable publishing industry. 

Another of the projects 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.  After an initial workshop with award-winning illustrator Jane Ray, introducing Zeraffa Giraffa, the children ran a 6-week project aimed at developing as many ways as possible of interpreting the book, bringing it to life using textures, props, puppets, masks, Lego, drama, and creative writing.  Their writing involved writing their own book reviews, simplified retellings of the story, and instructions on transporting a giraffe to Paris. The children and their teachers even created a version of Zeraffa Giraffa supported by ‘Communication In Print’ symbols.

Outcomes

Through the Reading the Way and Reading the Way 2 projects we have been able to demonstrate how much interest there is in this field, (both in the UK and internationally), and that there is much to be learned from inclusive and accessible books from other countries. 

Reading the Way 2 specifically generated the following outcomes:

Consultation with children

  • Above all, the project gave children a real voice about books. It offered them the opportunity to experience, explore and assess books from another country that had not been translated into English and the chance to actually help enhance such books. 
  • Key to the project was that workshop participants were aware of the immense value of their own views and experiences.  Participants were conscious that their input could have a genuine impact on ‘real’ children’s books, both those translated from other countries but also books which might be written or published in the future.  Evidence from the schools involved confirmed that the consultation process had led to participants feeling empowered, their opinions and experiences respected and valued.
  • The project engendered a sense of equality and mutual respect. Authors, illustrators, translators and publishers learned from children, as much as the children gained from the experience.

Value to book creators

  • The project generated unique material for the children’s book publishing sector by collecting valuable data and feedback from both disabled children and non-disabled children, and in mainstream settings and special school settings.  Such material can surely help to improve authentic inclusion and accessibility across the children’s book landscape.
  • The feedback collected suggests many ways to further enhance books that have been published in countries other than the UK.  Such material can help improve the chances of such books being accepted by UK publishers.
  • The project supported individual UK artists, offering them the unique opportunity to discuss the representation of disability in books with children themselves.
  • Feedback from those involved confirms that the participating authors, illustrators and translators were genuinely inspired by their involvement.  The books from other countries, feedback from children and material created by the children themselves will help them strengthen the inclusivity and accessibility of their own books and evidence of this can be seen across all the projects.
  • UK artists were introduced to examples of good practice from around the world, enhanced still further by the feedback on these books and ideas for improvement from the participating children.

Disability awareness in schools

  • The project allowed disabled and non-disabled children a way to develop new perspectives on disability. It offered a creative and safe way to explore and discuss inclusion and wider diversity.
  • The project promoted real disability awareness in the participating schools.  Discussing disability through the medium of children’s literature offers a valuable way to address issues of equality, respecting differences and developing empathy.  This is a much-needed area of activity, yet in the PSHE curriculum there is only one line that refers to disability. Schools were able to use the books to develop whole-school plans for improving disability awareness. The detailed analysis of Franz-Joseph Huainigg’s books, for example, served as a catalyst for creating a Disability Awareness Activity. The impact of this activity was very powerful, providing a deeper perspective and insight for the children both into being disabled but also supporting someone who is disabled.

Highlighting specific titles

  • The project highlights the value of books from around the world. It shares examples of good practice from other countries and brings them to the attention of the UK book publishers.

Translation

  • The project emphasises the importance and value of books in translation.  It helps to raise awareness of books in translation generally as well as highlighting specific titles and providing a way for OIW to encourage possible UK publication of some of the titles involved in the project.
  • More specifically, the project identified the value of translating and publishing books with an inclusive message from other countries, as a way of enriching the UK landscape. 
  • The project also generated a valuable dialogue with translators and students of translation regarding the subject of disability in books.  The project looked at the specific role of the translator in relation to some of the challenges that might be involved where translating ‘inclusive’ books was concerned. It caused students of translation to explore new questions that they might not previously have considered, such as whether some images of disability might reinforce stereotypes or some language stigmatise and the extent to which it is role of the translator to censor, dilute or soften content for the target culture.
  • The project noted various potential challenges that might be encountered in the translation process.  Two particular issues were noted. The first concerned ‘cultural expectations’ – so the need for translators (and other parties) to be aware that what is seen to be acceptable in one country in terms of attitudes and perceptions of disability may be very different in another.  The second concerned language, and the challenges of finding suitable alternatives in the English language, which would hold sufficiently similar meanings and also sit comfortably for UK readers.  In some cases, a word (or name) might have very specific connotations or associations would be lost in another language. 

Resources

  • The project has generated a Resource Guide, based on the workshops delivered.  This will offer schools across the UK (and wider) a source of inspiration and tried-and-tested activity ideas.

Recommendations

Examples of some of the many recommendations OIW would like to make following the RtW and RtW2 projects include:

Accessible books

OIW would like to see children in special schools being awarded access to a more expansive range of accessible mainstream books.

OIW believe books should be available in as many formats as possible including offering signing on accompanying CDs, online and through app’s and e-books.

OIW would recommend the inclusion of braille, British Sign Language and communication symbols somewhere within the mainstream book landscape.

The RtW2 project showed that the accessibility of any mainstream picture book can be enhanced and supported in vast range of different ways, for example using sensory props, puppets and drama.  OIW would like to see more resources available to support and inspire, offering ideas and activities. Inclusive books

The project proved that there is a need for a more diverse variety of approaches to including disability in stories and pictures.  Some of the innovative styles and approaches identified in this research were considered to help increase the book’s general viability and appeal whilst also providing a new way of viewing disability and inclusion.

The project noted the need for books that ‘usualise’ disability as opposed to either problemising or glamourising it. The project noted the need for books that empower disabled characters (without necessarily making them the ‘hero’) and also books that show disabled characters as equals.  There is also a need for books that do not shy away from the challenges that can be faced by disabled people.

The project findings underline the importance of avoiding stereotyping. Many of the most convincing depictions of disabled people identified through this project were written from personal experience or after having clearly undertaken extensive research. OIW recommends book creators undertake appropriate levels of research and consultation to ensure convincingly depicted characters and authenticity.  Books need to avoid sensationalising conditions such as autism or showing only extremes.  The landscape must reflect a range of different 'experiences' of any condition, to ensure that readers see a spectrum of different views and experiences, as opposed to a 'single story'.

The importance of the quality of the translation cannot be stressed strongly enough. The translation process must also involve giving careful thought to the important matter of disability-related language, terminology, cultural references and inferences.

UK publishers are encouraged to consider some of the titles identified by this project for possible publication.  By doing so, the UK book landscape could be enriched both in terms of increasing the number of books in translation but also the number recognising and including disabled children.

There is a real value in actively involving children in assessing manuscripts and finished books and all parts of the book world are urged to identify appropriate and workable means of doing this.

 

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