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Using Zeraffa Giraffa
Supporting accessibility for children with different needs


These activities are suitable for KS1 and could be developed for KS2.

Zeraffa Giraffa Activities, RtW2, Jan18


The Book

Zeraffa Giraffa by Dianne Hofmeyr and illustrated by Jane Ray is based on a true story, a giraffe is sent as a gift from the ruler of Egypt to the King of France in 1826.  A boy takes care of Zeraffa on her epic journey from Africa to Paris.

One of the Reading the Way 2 (RtW2) workshop projects aimed to explore ways in which a picture book could support children with communication difficulties. We made use of a range of accessible titles from around the world (identified during the first RtW programme) to provide inspiration for this, and then applied the learning to Zeraffa Giraffa. These included books with symbols, simplified text and tactile elements.  NB it is important to note that some of these are 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.

The Artist 

Jane Ray is an award-winning illustrator of over 70 books (some of which she has also written).  She also has an interest in inclusivity and accessibility, including the value of communication symbols. Her picture book Zeraffa Giraffa is an ideal candidate to use for creating resources to support accessibility.  This activity sheet outlines some of the many ways such a book could be used. 


Using Zeraffa Giraffa as a basis, broad areas of activity could involve:

  • Retelling the story
  • Creating and using tactile support
  • Exploring themes such as migration and displacement.

Retelling the Story

  • Try creating an abridged version of the story, using communication symbols.  Depending on the needs of the children, this might be using an existing communication system such as Widgit, Picture Commmunication Symbols (PCS) or Communication in Print or visuals.  (The RtW2 project used a book from Sweden called Pelle in Space* identified during the RtW project, as this is a great example of a book that was abridged and also supported with symbols.)
  • Likewise, the ‘Pesci Parlanti’ (a series of board books from Italy) show how classic fairy tales can be retold supported by PCS without detracting from the story. The books are designed specifically to be more accessible to those with reduced communication skills, but the symbols are of interest and value to many.

  • Children might create their own set of symbols or drawings inspired by these books, to support the retelling of Zeraffa Giraffa.

  • Act out the story of Zeraffa, with minimal words.  Research music that children feel suit the theme and setting.

  • Try working with the students to develop the story into a script.  Consider the conversations that might accompany the different stages of the journey.  Alternatively, select a section of the story to dramatize.

  • Use puppets to retell the story of Zeraffa.

Tactile Support

  • Create tactile images to support the story.  You might use I Feel a Foot as inspiration.  Think about the different textures of the different parts of the giraffe’s body as well as the shapes.

  • Create a giant Zeraffa for the school. The RtW2 school project involved making an adult (well over 6ft tall) and a baby (nearly 5ft tall), made by the children, using a wide range of tactile materials.

  • Make tactile props to accompany the giraffe and to support retellings of the story.  These might include cloaks, an amulet, a crown, flags, etc.

  • Create a collage, inspired by the book.

  • Children might make their own giraffe masks.

  • Use the ‘Pesci Parlanti’ series to explore how the format of books can be made more accessible.  Children can explore what makes these books easy to handle and their pages easy to turn.

Exploring Themes

  • Ask the children to think about the concept of idea of choosing to give a giraffe as a gift.  Consider 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.

  • Ask children to imagine what it might have been like to suddenly see a giraffe in the city of Paris.  Would people have seen a giraffe before? Why not?  What would they think of it?  Try writing a description of a giraffe, describing it to someone who has never seen one before, or to someone who has no sight.  

  • Develop a set of instructions on transporting a giraffe to Paris.

  • Explore the route that Zeraffa would have travelled.  Plot it on a map or create your own map, and discuss the various sights that Zeraffa would have seen.

  • Create a new story based on learnings from this book.  Try revisiting a theme contained in the book but within a contemporary setting.

  • Challenge children to write a story of their own.  Create a giraffe character and then decide where you would send your giraffe and why. 

  • Arrange a ‘moral dilemma’ style debate about whether it was wrong or right 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.  Consider both the pro’s and con’s.

For more information see ‘Reading the Way 2’ Report Case Study 3 and the Case Study on Symbols from our RtW research in 2015.

Suggested Books:


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

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.

Books not in English

Pelle in Space (Pelle på planetfärd)
Jan Lööf
Bonnier Carlson, Sweden, 2010
Widgit Version Specialpedagogiska Skolmyndigheten (SPSM), Umeå, Sweden
(The National Agency for Special Needs Education and Schools), 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 also been adapted using Widgit symbols for children with reading disabilities.

Widgit edition available from SPSM



‘Pesci Parlanti’ (Talking Fish) series Enza Crivelli Uovonero Language: Italian and PCS Symbols


‘Pesci Parlanti’ is a series of classic fairy tales featuring PCS, 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. The series has been created by Enza Crivelli, a specialist in autism, and editor at Uovonero.






Goldilocks and the Three Bears
(Riccioli d’Oro e I tre orsi), Peppo Biachessi (ills.), 2012 Jack and the Beanstalk (Giacomino e il fagiolo magico) Peppo Biachessi (ills.), 2012
Little Red Riding Hood
(Cappuccetto Rosso)
Peppo Biachessi (ills.), 2010
(Raperonzolo), Antonio Boffa (ills.), 2012
Snow White
(Biancaneve), Di Tommaso di Incalci (ills.) 2014
The Three Little Pigs
(I tre Porcellini), Matteo Gubellini (ills.), 2011
The Wolf and Seven Kids
(Il Lupo e I Sette Capretti),  Andrea Alemanno (ills.), 2013


The above titles are available to purchase from Uovonero



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.

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