Award winning tactile book

Published:

I am very proud to announce that ‘Dag Spin’ (‘Hello Spider’) has been awarded 2nd prize in the 2019 edition of the Typhlo & Tactus international competition for tactile children’s books.

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Dag Spin (‘Hello Spider’) tactile children's book by Gyntha Goertz and Ann M. Conefrey. 20 pages hard cover with box for model spider, limited edition of 25 books.

Encouraging braille literacy

‘Dag Spin’ is one of six tactile books in the series ‘Voeljeleesboek’ (this literally means ‘feel your reading book’) which has been developed to stimulate young children learning to read braille. When designing this book I worked very closely with braille expert Gyntha Goertz who teaches at the Visio School in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Gyntha came up with the concept and wrote the story; I designed and produced the book. The story has been written for didactic purposes. The sentences are carefully crafted to correspond with a specific level when learning braille and the tactile design and illustrations support the story in a meaningful way.

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A double spread with the story in braille and print on a lefthand page and a tactile illustration with two lines of braille on a righthand page. 

Braille, tactile illustrations and a 3D object

‘Dag Spin’ tells the story of a spider, journeying past various objects until it finally settles to build its web. The story unfolds on spreads: the lefthand pages carrying the story in braille and print and the righthand pages enriching the story with tactile illustrations. Above and below each illustration a word and a simple sentence in braille have been added for children who are not yet able to read the whole story. Thick strips have been placed above the braille to encourage correct use of the fingers. The strips also help to protect the braille on the lefthand pages from being rubbed by the illustrations. Each book comes with a model spider which the child can use to act out the story. Not only do children have a lot of fun doing this but it also helps them understand (abstract) concepts. It is a positive and inclusive reading experience, ultimately stimulating braille and literacy skills.

Acting out the story

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    For the opening spread the children can click the spider onto a bead and start following the thread.

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    Children can use the spider to act out the story. In this case climbing down a stairs and into a bag.

‘Curiosity and pleasure form a solid basis for being able to learn and develop’.

Based on notes taken during a presentation by Mark Mieras (scientific journalist) Ledendag Onbeperkt Lezen, 15-6-2019.

Making abstract concepts tangible

This particular book has been developed to teach childtren how to navigate, specifically on a two-dimensional plane such as a page. On each double spread the child follows the movement of the thread (spider and its web) with their fingers. By actually experiencing the movement described in the story, which has been made tangible in the illustrations, they develop greater understanding of language and spacial terms such as up, down, in, out, around, underneath, etc. Throughout the story the understanding and the motor skills progressively increase in difficulty. The illustrations start with the movement left to right, then carry on to up and down then develop further to around, zigzag, etc. Later on the movements become more challenging; the children have to follow the thread in and out of a block of cheese and then down a stairs. I made the stairs as a pop-up, actively engaging the children to ‘crawl’ down the stairs with their fingers and into a bag. In the last illustration the children place the spider in its web. Not only is the ‘mission complete’ but the children will have practised strategies for navigating on a two-dimensional plane and learned about the relationship between objects and the significance of this.

Tactile illustration pages

184 metres of silver thread

Not only expertise but a great deal of time, energy and passion along with 184 metres of silver thread, 34 distinctive materials, 4 different kinds of paper in 8 colours and a variety of printing, finishing and binding techniques have gone into making ‘Dag Spin’. You can read read about the development and production process in the subsection. 

Silver thread running through all the illustration pages

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More tactile books!

This has been a wonderful and at the same time challenging design project with strict educational requirements, a set budget for all six books and many technical challenges. In particular I really enjoyed working closely with the teachers from Visio and the children who gave real time feedback during the design process. This helped me find a balance between functionality and aesthetics in order to design and produce high quality children’s tactile books. 

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Teachers from the Visio school Rotterdam who wrote the stories. Top row, left to right: Anneke Blok, Marion Brillemans, Marianne van der Vinne, Ingrid Stekelenburg. Bottom row, left Gyntha Goertz and right Ann Conefrey (me).

It is the first time that such an ambitious project has been undertaken in the Netherlands; for my part also a new undertaking. Apart from the actual designing I managed the production and developed a workflow which will hopefully help to pave the way for more tactile books being designed and produced here in the future. 

It’s a great honour to be rewarded with a Typhlo & Tactus prize*, Thank you!

‘The aim of TYPHLO & TACTUS: more tactile illustrated books, better in quality, more tactually efficient, for all visually impaired children. TYPHLO & TACTUS is now open to any country in the world and partner of ICEVI’.

Website Typhlo & Tactus.

*Typhlo & Tactus, LE concours international d’albums tact-illustrés, THE International Tactile-Illustrated Book Prize.


Auteur

Ann M. Conefrey
Ann M. Conefrey

Grafisch Ontwerper