Exploring Tactile Books
These activities are suitable for KS3 and KS4 as they can be adapted depending upon the age group.
Exploring Tactile Books Activities, RtW2, Jan18
The RtW2 project used a range of tactile books with the aim of exploring their effectiveness, particularly in relation to the needs of visually impaired audiences. The project focused on the tactile books by UK publisher Child’s Play, alongside a range of books from around the world. NB it is important to note that some of these are likely to be difficult and/or expensive to purchase from the UK, however, for information, this activity sheet still references some of those used and these are listed at the end of this activity sheet.
There are many ways to engage students with tactile books. Whilst such books are generally traditionally designed for younger children, exploring them can have huge benefits to much older students. For example, depending on the ages and needs of the audience, activities could involve:
- Considering the needs of visually impaired children and the extent to which specific tactile books meet those needs.
- Researching the challenges facing publishers of tactile books.
- Designing and/or making students’ own tactile books.
This activity sheet goes on to suggest a range of activity ideas based on these three areas.
Considering audience needs
- Develop a collection of tactile / touch and feel books for the classroom. This could include typical ‘touch and feel’ baby books alongside some more complex books such as the Child’s Play tactile books. Try also to include any of the books from around the world listed in this activity sheet and/or other specialist production books.
- Compare the scope of textures provided in the different books. Encourage students to consider the (perhaps limited) range of tactile elements in typical touch and feel books from UK mainstream production.
- Challenge students to identify textures and shapes using touch alone. Start with typical touch and feel books, exploring them with eyes closed. Then try the same process but with the Child’s Play books and/or RtW books or specialist production books.
- Explore the relationship between text and tactile content. What difference does it make when you can read (or hear) the text in addition to feeling the tactile elements?
- Challenge students to consider what other types of books might be of value to some visually impaired readers. Try to find books with raised lines / embossing, die-cut holes, sound effects, audio versions.
- Research braille and try to find examples of any mainstream books featuring braille. Learn how children can develop pre-braille skills by ‘tracking’ items through a book, such as the paths in the Child’s Play books.
- Tactile books produced in the UK are subject to (comprehensive) toy safety regulations. These can be found online at http://www.legislation.gov.uk
- Students might research examples of the way in which these regulations impact on tactile books. For example, where items are for children under 36 months of age, toys and books cannot feature elements that could become detached and pose a choking hazard.
- Students might be encouraged also think about what challenges this might present for a publisher. In addition to the safety testing itself, there might for example be high costs involved in making these items safe.
- To help develop a better understanding of these challenges, the RtW2 project drew directly on the experience of a UK publisher (Child’s Play). The students were able to learn that some elements had to be ‘inserted’ or ‘enclosed’ in order to make them safe, dramatically increasing cost. Some elements had to be made by hand instead of being machine-made, again impacting heavily on cost.
- Try challenging students to guess which items in Off to the Park! would be the most expensive elements to produce. Many might assume the scratch and sniff ice cream or the slide. However the red ball is actually the most expensive, as it needed to be inserted (enclosed) into the page.
- Encourage students to consider which pages would be complicated, in relation to safety. Interestingly, one such example is the page featuring the shoe laces and the slide. The plan had originally been to include Velcro straps on shoes, but this had been deemed unsafe, so the straps were replaced with laces, which in turn had to be a particular length to meet safety regulations. In the case of the slide, there was the challenge of the tiny holes in the steps, and there was the also the issue perspective to be decided upon.
- Students might repeat these exercises with Off to the Beach! The page with the ‘moving feet’ was the most expensive page in this book, with its handmade, moving component, featuring some printing and also a glittery backdrop.
- Finally, the students might be encouraged to consider which elements would be most popular with children. Thus they can be encouraged to recognise that a successful touch and feel book needs to meet the safety requirements, be commercially viable and also offer sufficient interest and stimulation to the target audience.
Creating Tactile Books
The following activities could be developed either as individual or are partially sighted.
- Try creating a tactile book (or an idea for a tactile book) based on the Child’s Play books. Look at different methods for creating tactile interest, such as textured paths or tracks, inserted items and raised elements.
- Consider including braille labels. It is possible to print braille (simple braille labellers can be bought online), or alternatively students might use a braille alphabet downloaded from the internet, to write braille themselves.
- Try introducing an animal through touch. (The RtW2 project used I Feel a Foot as inspiration.)
- Consider the importance of layout, so making a page uncluttered and having enough space to feel each item.
- Try creating a tactile A-Z. Encourage students to think carefully about how to make elements recognisable, and issues such as angles and perspectives. Try to research other books that use tactile elements in this way. (The RtW2 project used ABC Touch and See for inspiration).
- Consider how tactile ‘props’ can be made and used to support storytelling.
- Create a tactile version of famous story such as The Very Hungry Caterpillar (the RtW2 project used a handmade version of this from India as inspiration).
- Work with students to explore stories that include characters who are blind or partially sighted. Research examples and consider in each case whether they are positive or less positive depictions of visual impairment. In addition to UK titles, you might research books from around the world (for example, the RtW2 project used the books Voir and The Ghost Story).
For more information see ‘Reading the Way 2’ Report Case Study 1 and sections from our original RtW research in 2015 – Accessible Books in Brief and Inclusive Books in Brief.
Child’s Play (text), Cocoretto (ills.), 2016
Off to the Beach!
Child’s Play (text) Stephen Cheetham (ills.), 2014
Off to the Park!
Child’s Play (text), Cocoretto (ills.), 2016
Getting Ready, Off to the Beach! and Off to the Park! have been developed in consultation with children, families and organisations working with blind and partially-sighted children, and contain high-contrast images, tactile features and Braille-style numbering. They are suitable for children with a variety of different additional support needs.
(Please note that some of the following books may be difficult and / or expensive to obtain in the UK)
ABC Touch and See
Karadi Tales, India
Tactile and Braille Language: English
A carefully handcrafted book using a variety of materials and textures, with the printed text accompanied by Braille letters, it combines bright colours with an array of tactile sensations bringing the pictures to life through touch.
I Feel a Foot
Marante Rinck (text) Martijn Van Der Linden (ills.) Karadi Tales, India
Tactile, Language: English
An 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.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar
(Dreaming Fingers Series)
Eric Carle, Karadi Tales, India, 2006
Tactile and Braille; Language: English
Eric Carle's book 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, has used 34 different textured materials.
The above three hand-made titles are available to purchase from Karadi Tales in India.
Books not in English
The Ghost Story (El Cuento Fantasma)
Jaime Gamboa (text), Wen Hsu Chen (ills.)
Grupo Amanuense, Guatemala, 2013
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.
Seeing in the Dark (Voir)
Motus Editions, 2005
Text with Braille, Language: French
Voir effectively plays with contrast, tactile elements and braille to encourage the reader to consider visual impairment. The blind narrator describes a game she plays with her friends Jessy and Manon in the dark. They all have to navigate numerous obstacles before reaching the kitchen, which Jessy and Manon find extremely difficult, but as they agree, the narrator has an advantage. The book ends with a philosophical question about whether when we look we truly see.
For these activities we have chosen books used in the RtW projects. Wherever possible we have checked their availability to purchase. Some mentioned are not available through the Amazon link from our website (all the above books are listed under their original title if not in English) and can be purchased directly from the international publisher.