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Press release

  • 16 December 2008

Books that smell, feel and sound good to be used for research

Winning entries for a competition to create new tactile books for visually impaired children will aid psychology research at the University of Sussex.

Dr Frances Aldrich, research fellow in psychology, and Vice Chair of the Tactile Book Advancement Group which organised the competition, received 70 entries from across the world in response to the TBAG challenge: "Make a difference - make a tactile book".

"Christmas came early this year!" said Dr Aldrich. "We were temporarily overwhelmed as brown paper packages of all shapes and sizes arrived through the mail, bringing a fantastic range of books intended to be enjoyed primarily through touch. Many of them are beautifully hand-crafted fabric books, with a rich variety of contrasting colours and textures - really quite luscious. Others include sounds, and even smells!"

The winners were announced at Royal National Institute for the Blind's conference 'Tactile Graphics 2008' in Birmingham on December 5th, 2008. First prize in the 3-6 year age category went to 'Sally's Sandwich' by Sally Hancox from Brighton. Judges liked the humour of this entry, its good use of textures and its small size.

Vuokoo Nyberg from Finland won in the 7-12 year-olds category, with 'Magic Boots'. The judges considered it entertaining and educational, with text and illustrations appropriate to this age group.

Other categories included best book designed by a person with a visual impairment - which went to 'Sweetie' by Sona Fialove from Slovakia. Tactile Graphics 2008 conference choice (voted on by conference delegates) was 'Vers Pa Tvers' by Annette Diesen from Norway. There was also a category for the best commercially published book incorporating tactile elements, which was won by 'This is my Monster' by Sam Taplin & Stephanie Jones (published by Usborne). Judges liked the build up of items on the page, the simplicity, amusing text and the sound button.

Dr Aldrich, whose research work at Sussex is investigating how blind children can gain better access to graphics through touch, said there is a dearth of good tactile books. "Many blind children have little to do with books until they start learning to read Braille at school. They don't have the pre-school opportunities to handle and enjoy books that we take for granted with sighted children - even knowing to turn the pages from right to left is something they may not be aware of."

The organisers prepared lots of advice for entrants on how to create effective tactile books, taking into account narrative and humour, as well as tactile elements robust enough to withstand enthusiastic exploration. The advice is shared via the TBAG web site ( and includes encouragement and guidance for mainstream publishers who produce novelty books with textured elements. "Little adjustments to the design can make an enormous difference to accessibility, and make these books something that all children can enjoy." says Dr Aldrich.

All competition entries will be examined as part of the tactile graphics research at Sussex University, following which the winning entries will go on display at RNIB. The organisers are currently looking for a local venue for the travelling exhibition. A local school has already become involved. Following a visit from Dr Aldrich, children at Sompting Village Primary School in West Sussex are busy making tactile books which they hope will appeal to blind children their own age.

The final stage of the competition is to compile instructions on the TBAG website so that people anywhere in the world will be able to recreate the best entries. Dr Aldrich says: "This is the most cost-effective way to produce and distribute books that can make a real difference to the lives of visually impaired children around the world."

Notes for editors

  • Dr Frances Aldrich is Director of the Reginald Phillips Research Programme, an investigation into the design and use of tactile graphics in the education of blind children ( The programme is funded by the R. M. Phillips Research Settlement.
  • For more information about the competition, visit
  • University of Sussex press office, Jacqui Bealing and Maggie Clune, Tel: 01273 678888 Email:

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