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Breaking Down Stereotypes Through Children's Books
Outside In World Publishes Reading The Way 2 Project Report


Leading UK and international artists including former children’s laureate Julia Donaldson, illustrator Jane Ray, translator Daniel Hahn and Syrian author Nadine Kaadan, recently joined forces with book organisation Outside in World (OIW) on Reading the Way 2 (RtW2), an innovative workshop project to explore a selection of inclusive and accessible books from around the world.  OIW now hopes this valuable project will help to enrich the book landscape with improved inclusion of disabled children, and more books in translation being published in the UK. 

Julia Donaldson, former Children’s Laureate and best-selling children’s author, comments:

"I have always been keen for children’s books to be as inclusive and accessible as possible, so I was delighted to be involved in the Reading the Way 2 project, visiting a school with a high number of deaf pupils.  It would be good if children in special schools could have a wider range of books and audio books, and for there to be more books in Braille and videos of BSL stories available.”


Reading the Way 2 Report Press Release 17.01.18



You can read the full report here or click to download the pdf.



Reading the Way 2 Final Report Jan17



Reading the Way 2 Workshops  

 Ten workshops took place during 2016-2017.  

Guildford Grove School Primary School

The workshop at Guildford Grove involved Years 3-4 children, including 6- 8 deaf Children, some of their hearing peers and Syrian author and illustrator Nadine Kaardan.


Nadine Kaadan and pupil from Guildford Grove Primary School
©Photo Alexandra Strick

Nadine started off by reading her book Answer Me, Leila about a deaf princess. This was accompanied by visuals on a screen and interpreting with BSL.  The children were asked to share their reactions to the book and Nadine explained to them about the setting for the book, pointing out the clothing that the characters are wearing and the Damascus rose.

Leila, Ruddi Allaya (Answer Me, Leila), Nadine Kaadan
Box of Tales Publishing House, Syria, 2011

Then Nadine talked through the process of creating another of her books, The Jasmine Sneeze, sharing images that had provided inspiration, such as Syrian buildings, arches, fountains and cats.  She then showed how the book developed from rough black and white sketches to full colour artwork.   This proved very powerful for the children, who had clearly never considered how the images in a book are formed.

Jasmine Sneeze, Nadine Kaadan, Lantana Publishing, 2016

The session then moved on to a section of exploring Leila in more depth and Nadine told them about her inspiration for the book and how she worked with a woman who was deaf and used BSL. 

In the final session of the workshop, the children were split into two groups.  One group focused on inclusive elements of the story of Leila, particularly in relation to deafness.  They came up with ideas for developing the relationship between the characters and even for new characters that they could add.  Children suggested things like giving the princess a hearing aid, and including a hearing dog in the story.   They drew pictures of their characters and wrote about them.  The second group looked at BSL. This group included two boys on the autistic spectrum who used communication symbols, and two members of staff who were deaf themselves. 


Nadine Kaadan and pupils from Guildford Grove Primary School
©Photo Alexandra Strick

The group also looked at the collection of OIW books featuring signs and symbols.  They then looked at the signs that appear in Leila. The children started to think about other signs that could be included – both signs that would be useful for anyone to learn, and also signs that could be relevant to the book.  They thought that having the fingerspelling alphabet would be a useful addition to the book.  

During the next 4-6 weeks, the school built on many of these discussions and ran an in-school project, involving primarily the deaf children with Nadine making a follow-up visit on 22 June.  Since the first workshop the school has done a huge amount of work which they were able to share with Nadine.

The children had studied Answer Me, Leila and also looked at some of the other books featuring deafness.  They then each undertook a different area of work, generally in pairs.  This resulted in a whole range of ideas including: exploring the characters and what they liked about them; creating their own versions of what might happen in the story - both written and illustrated; creating a symbol supported version of a couple of pages of Answer Me, Leila; acting out the story, and producing a recommended glossary of BSL terms for the book. 

Nadine Kaadan and pupils from Guildford Grove Primary School
©Photo Alexandra Strick

 After the children had each presented their work Nadine started an illustration-based session in which she taught them some techniques and then the children helped her create a new ‘Leila’ with a cochlear implant, in watercolour, pictured in one of the attached photos.



Nadine Kaadan and pupils from Guildford Grove Primary School
©Photo Alexandra Strick


 New College Worcester

New College Worcester (NCW) is a national specialist residential school and college for students aged 11 to 19 who are blind or partially sighted.

Our first workshop took place on 9 November 2016 with Annie Kubler, publisher and illustrator from Child’s Play. Child’s Play is a publisher with a history of creating innovative, award-winning books for children from 0-8 years that promote learning through play – books that fully reflect our diverse society in terms of heritage, disability, gender and family.

The aim of the workshop was to look at tactile books in terms of what is needed and is of most value (as seen by NCW students) and what is possible in terms of commercial Health and Safety constraints (as encountered by Child’s Play). 

Annie’s talk used three Child’s Play tactile books – Off to the Park!, Off to the Beach! and Getting Ready as examples to explain some of the processes involved, the challenges, (particularly where books are for children aged under 3 years of age) and which kinds of tactile elements are the most expensive to include.



 Students from New College Worcester
©Photo Alexandra Strick

The students were then encouraged to use their learning to select which pages/elements they thought might have caused Child’s Play the most problems. They also looked at some tactile samples that were considered and had to abandon for safety reasons as well as identifying which tactile element were machine-made, handmade, expensive or complicated. There was also a brief discussion about braille and the complexities of including it in a book. 

The workshop then moved on to look at some of the titles identified in the Reading the Way research and the students were asked to try applying what they had learned from Annie to these books. 


 Students from New College Worcester exploring one of the tactile books
©Photo Alexandra Strick


River Beach Primary School

River Beach is a mainstream primary school with a Special Support Centre, (one of only two Primary Support Centres for deaf children in West Sussex).

The first workshop took place on 23 January 2017 with Italian author Rosa Tiziana Bruno and translator Denise Muir.

Rosa Tiziana Bruno is also a sociologist and teacher and she has spent many years working on intercultural education, and running story telling projects in schools around her picture book La pasticceria Zitti exploring the senses and food. Denise Muir is a commercial web writer and literary translator. She most recently translated the challenging young adult novel Girl Detached by Italian author Manuela Salvi (The Bucket List, September 2016), which was  banned in Italy.

La pasticceria Zitti/Zitti’s Cakeshop was identified in our first RtW project because it features a deaf character and explores how communication is possible through the senses, particularly in relation to food.  The workshops were modelled on the successful events that Rosa Tiziana Bruno runs in Italy.



La pasticceria Zitti (Zitti’s Cake Shop), Rosa Tiziana Bruno (text), Ambra Garlaschelli (ills.), La Margherita Edizioni, Italy, 2011 

There were two sessions: The morning comprised of 12 pupils from Y3, Y4, Y5 and Y6 – six from the SSC and six hearing Children, who each brought a hearing friend.  The afternoon comprised of 10 pupils from YR, Y1 and Y2 – six from the SSC and four hearing children.  



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

Both groups of children read and explored the story and then took part in a practical activity of making biscuits and cupcakes.  As they were mixing the flour, sugar and butter into a bowl the children were asked to think about a secret ingredient that they might add to the bowl before the mixture was made into a dough. They had to either sprinkle their secret ingredient in silence as the bowl was passed round the group or write it down on a piece of paper and place it into a box. While the children were waiting for the biscuits to cook, they did some drawings that represented what their secret ingredient was. The secret ingredients were revealed at the end of each workshop session.


Students from River Beach School, Littlehampton – secret ingredient box
©Photo Rosa Tiziana Bruno


Pupils and their artwork, River Beach Primary School ©Photo Deborah Hallford

The Mayor of Littlehampton Town Council joined the children in the morning to help mix the ingredients – Littlehampton Gazette  23.01.17


Children and staff from River Beach Primary School in Littlehampton were in for a treat when best-selling author Julia Donaldson visited them on Wednesday 7 June.  During two action-packed workshops with children from Year 2 and from the Special Support Centre for Deaf Children (SSC) Julia, accompanied by her husband Malcolm used drama and music to explore some of her stories.



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

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

In the morning session the children had lots of fun acting out two of Julia’s 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.


Malcolm Donaldson and pupils from River Beach School ©Photo Alexandra Strick

In the afternoon session the children were joined by the new Mayor of Littlehampton Town, Councillor Billy Blanchard-Cooper who joined in the singing and signing of the ‘Monkey Puzzle’ song. The children took on animal roles in Freddie and the Fairy and Julia’s latest book The Giant Jumperee.


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

Julia and the Mayor then spent time with a group of children who have been working on their ‘Reading the Way2’ project hearing some of the stories they have written inspired by the first workshop they had with Rosa Tiziana Bruno and Denise Muir in January.



Julia Donaldson, Mayor of Littlehampton, Billy Blanchard-Cooper and pupils from River Beach Primary School ©Photo Alexandra Strick

The afternoon was rounded off with book signing by Julia with long queues of parents and children buying books from a ‘pop-up bookshop’, set up in the school hall by The Steyning Bookshop who organise Julia’s visits to schools, with the school being given back a credit on the book sales to spend on books for the school. 

Littlehampton Gazette 15 June 2017


St Elizabeth’s Catholic Primary School, Richmond

St Elizabeth's is a mainstream Catholic Primary School is an Infant and Junior school.

The first workshop took place on 18 November 2016 with Dr Rebecca Butler, a writer and lecturer on children's literature. Rebecca acted as one of our Specialist Disability Advisors and was part of our Virtual Focus Group on the first RtW project.


 Students and Dr Rebecca Butler from St. Elizabeth’s Catholic School, Richmond ©Photo St Elizabeth’s

The students taking part were from Years 5 and 6.  The aim of the workshop was to explore My Wheelchair is My Legs by Austrian author Franz-Joseph Huainigg, who has been disabled since he was an infant. As well as being a writer he is also a politician, campaigning on disability rights, and is the Austrian People’s Party spokesperson for people with disabilities.  




Meine Fusse sind der Rollstuhl (My Wheelchair is my Legs) Wir sprechen mit den Händen (We Talk with our Hands) Franz-Joseph Huainigg (text), Verena Ballhaus (ills.), Anthology (Gemeinsam sind wir grosse Klasse), Annette Betz (Imprint of Ueberreuter Verlag), Germany, 2014


Huainigg’s books were included in the RtW research.  The students were asked to explore the book in more depth page identifying what they liked, didn’t like, how well the theme worked, the portrayal of disability in both text and illustrations. The second workshop on 10 February 2017 looked at another Huainigg book – We Talk With Our Hands.  

The group also carried out a Disability Awareness Morning involving some of the children spending the time in a wheelchair, on crutches, having their dominant arm in a sling so having to dress, eat, write and even play sport with their other less dominant arm, and not speaking with communicating only through hand signals or writing on a white board. Several of the children also took on the role of helpers.

The students have since compiled a list of questions that have been sent to Franz-Joseph Huainigg who has agreed to make a short video response. 


Sacred Heart School, Battersea

Sacred Heart Primary School Battersea now includes Hilary House, a purpose-built centre for the teaching of children with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD). Hilary House accepts up to 15 children from across the Borough of Wandsworth aged 4-11 whose parents want the experience of a mainstream primary setting combined with the specialist support of a special school.

The first workshop took place on 6 December 2016 with award-winning author and illustrator Jane Ray. There were two sessions each with a different class of Year 2 children, each including 30 children.  A couple of the children in each group were from the Hilary House unit for children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder.  

The workshop aimed to introduce the children to the work of Jane Ray and particularly to focus 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. 


Zeraffa Giraffa, Dianne Hofmeyr, ills. Jane Ray
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2015

Jane read the book to the children, checking their understanding of any less familiar words or concepts as she went.  She showed them some examples of original artwork from the book encouraging them to spot differences between the original artwork and the final cover (such as the spine, title, author and illustrator, publisher and blurb) and the children surprised her by noticing many smaller details that had also changed. Jane talked about how she uses collage as a technique. She then began to draw them a giraffe on the flipchart, and they discussed what they knew about giraffes as she drew. 


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

Following the workshop the children explored ways of making Zeraffa more accessible to different audiences, inspired by a range of books from around the world, loaned to the school by OIW. On Jane’s follow-up visit 24 February 2017 the staff and children shared what they had achieved during the intervening weeks, which included from ‘Zeraffa’ models, collage, puppets, book reviews, retellings and communication symbols.




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

The Wandsworth Guardian (24.02.17) covered the second workshop at Sacred Heart.


University of East Anglia

The UEA Workshop with students of Dr BJ Epstein, a Lecturer in Literature and Translation and an expert in children's literature and is also a translator, took play on 1 February 2017 with Daniel Hahn, award-winning translator, writer and editor.

The students taking part were MA students of Translation and BA students of children’s literature. The workshop looked specifically at two ‘inclusive’ titles discovered in the RtW research – Zitti’s Cakeshop and La petite casserole d’Anatole/Lorenzo’s Saucepan by Isabelle Carrier.


La petite casserole d’Anatole, Editions Bilboquet, France, 2009 El Cazo de Lorenzo, Editorial Juventud, Spain, 2010 Il Pentolino di Antonino, Kite Edizioni, 2011

The students explored how these two titles worked in translation, in terms of terminology, what might or might not be acceptable in the UK, what could be problematic and the portrayal of disabled characters, particularly in terms of the writing/story.


For more detailed information on some of the RtW books mentioned above see our Inclusive Booklist
or download our full Research Report.



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