It is not often a sighted person gets to step into the world of the blind but the beautifully written ‘The Black Book of Colours’ enables just that. The book is written from the view point of a young blind boy called Thomas. It gives us an insight into how Thomas experiences colour as well as how braille is used to present print. It comprises of delicate pictures of natural objects such as feathers, leaves and strawberries. However, they are not depicted through colour but instead through embossed shapes that can be traced through our fingertips. Each double page spread is printed onto black paper with a page of text accompanied by braille and a raised illustration. At the back of the book you will find a full braille alphabet to explore. This book should be experienced through a range of senses and therefore lead onto a wealth of learning opportunities including finding out more about Braille.
Braille is a tactile reading and writing system used by people who are unable to access printed materials, it is not a language but instead a code. It uses raised dots to represent the letters of the alphabet as well as symbols to represent to punctuation etc. It was invented by Louis Braille and is constructed from six dots.
World Sight Day 2018
Coordinated by International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness
Each year World Sight Day is celebrated around the world. This year it is on Thursday 11th October 2018. It aims to draw attention to and raise public awareness of a range of issues surrounding blindness and visual impairment. The Black Book of Colours is a great way of raising such awareness and could be used in school at this time. Websites such as Royal Blind have a range of resources that can be accessed by schools.
In the table below, you will find suggestions for how this text could be used creatively to develop children’s literacy skills in line with the English Programme of Study for Y1 – Y6
|Year group||NC statement||Opportunities for the exploration in the text:|
40 - 60 months writing:
|Having read the book to the children and talked about how Thomas experiences colour, the children could collect things that are their favourite colour. These objects could be used to prompt discussion and support the collection of vocabulary in order for them to write a short sentence about their colour.|
Name the letters of the alphabet in order
Using the spelling rule for adding -s or -es as the plural marker for nouns and the third person singular marker for verbs
At the back of the book is the alphabet in order with the braille dots above. The children could recite the alphabet as the feel the dots. They could then make their own braille alphabet.
The text is full of words exemplifying this rule e.g.
The children could list them and talk about the spelling rule
Consider what they are going to write before beginning by:
Use of capital letters, full stops. question marks and exclamation marks to demarcate sentences
The book describes Thomas’s experience of colour. Discuss his perception of colour through the sense of hearing, touch, smell and taste. Ask the children to capture ideas and vocabulary in order to describe different colours and write their own black book of colour e.g. Purple is a plum hanging heavy on the tree. It tastes juicy and sweet to eat.
To create the illustrations the children could draw a simple line illustration and pipe PVA glue over the top through a fine nozzle. Once dried it leaves a raised texture that can be traced by your fingers.
The children could also explore Herve Tullet’s ‘The Game of Let’s Go!’ that has raised fuzzy line illustrations.
Braille has its own punctuation so the children could explore how a full stop, question mark, exclamation mark etc. can be represented in dots.
|3||Expressing time, place and cause using:
Conjunctions [for example, when before, after, while so, because]
Explore the use of the conjunctions when and because in the text. There are plenty of examples to discuss:
It hurts when he finds it on his scraped knee.
Thomas says that blue is the colour of the sky when kites are flying and the sun is beating hot on his head.
It is soft as silk when his mother hugs him and her hair falls in his face.
Thomas likes all the colours because he can hear them and smell them and touch them and taste them.
Ask the children to write their own sentences (including a conjunction) that could be added to the text.
|4||Noun phrases expanded by the addition of modifying adjectives, nouns and preposition phrases (e.g. the teacher expanded to: the strict maths teacher with curly hair)||
Explore the text to find expanded noun phrases e.g.
…as soft as a baby chicks feathers
…the sun is beating hot on his head
…smells like grass that’s just been cut
|5||Uses pronouns to avoid repetition where appropriate||
In the text, pronouns are used for both Thomas and his mother. It does not say Thomas on each page instead, it says he, his or him. If they were writing a page to add to this book how would they use pronouns to avoid repetition?
|6||Participate in discussions about books that are read to them and those they can read for themselves, building on their own and other ideas and challenging views courteously||
Through discussing this book and finding out how Thomas reads braille and perceives colour could lead onto the children doing their own research. This could include researching Louis Braille and how he came up with the Braille alphabet as well as how sight can be impaired or lost.
They could also find books that have visually impaired characters.
Here are some quite challenging philosophical questions that will prompt discussion:
1. In the book Thomas says that black is the king of the colours. What do you think he means by this?
2. Can colours have a king? Do you think that black should be the king?
3. If a person is not able to see colour are they blind?
4. Do you think that you experience colour the same way as Thomas?
5. Does colour really exist?
6. How would you show a blind person a new colour?7. Do we all see colour the same way?