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.

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 which stimulates literacy skills for children learning braille and also their sighted classmates.

Acting out the story

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

Mark Mieras, science journalist, Ledendag Onbeperkt Lezen 15-6-2019

A blind pupil testing the illustrations at school

A student tests a prototype pop-up illustration of a staircase.
A child follows the thread on an illustration page using both hands.
A student uses both hands to feel an illustration of a spider web.

Making abstract concepts tangible

This particular book has been developed to teach children 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 more about the development and production process.

Silver thread running through all the illustration pages

Lengths of silver thread hand sewn in a zig-zag pattern through an illustration page covered with textured acrylic.
Silver thread is hand sewn onto velvety paper using another very fine thread, as part of an illustration of a stairs.
The spiderwebs are constructed by hand sewing long lengths of silver thread in a specific pattern.