Show and Tell and Feel

Show and don’t tell. That’s the advice all writers know, but its a balancing act, as we have to tell a little bit. What to show, what to tell? Telling increases the pace. Showing puts us in the thick of things.

But what about a different perspective to the meaning of “show”? What about feeling, you know, in the tactual sense.

Young readers love the visual aspects of picture books. It makes their reading experience richer and way more fun. Likewise, young readers who aren’t able to see love the addition of tactual elements in books.  It makes their reading experience richer and, you got it, way more fun. But what to “show”?



Above are two print/braille board books to which I’ve added tactual elements for my students. My students are pre-braille readers. They are learning their braille letters and to use their tactual exploration skills. The simple addition of texture for the sheep and of a plastic spider and a tube for its water spout along with accompanying sound effects from an IPAD app allows them to be more engaged readers.  With the addition of these “showing-feeling-hearing” elements the books were requested for repeated reads. Just what a writer, reader and teacher loves to hear!

When picking out what tactual elements to add to a picture book’s page its important to think about what detail will help the tactual reader get the most out of the text or image on the page. Too much tactual representation could cause confusion. Simpler is better. Isn’t it always.  One or two important details to involve the reader is ideal, more than that is overload.

It’s a thought that can be applied to writing, especially for the picture book audience.  Don’t you think?

If only tactual elements could be cost effective enough to catch on with mainstream print picture book publishers, then children who are blind or visually impaired (tactual readers) could have access to as many books as visual readers. Wouldn’t that be grand!



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