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This project is to create five sensory stories. To decide if this is a great project, or not, you need to know four things: 1) what sensory stories are 2) why they're so special 3) why it should be these stories 4) and why me?
What are sensory stories?
Sensory stories are told by sharing sensory experiences, that's what makes them so engaging. Sensory stories also look different to ordinary stories. These stories will each be printed on a single piece of card, for the resourced stories this will be accompanied by a box of stimuli.
I've told sensory stories to people of all ages and abilities and everyone wants to get involved. Sensory stories don't rely on words; this makes them very inclusive: they can be accessed by people who don't share your language or who don't understand language. They are especially good for children with special needs. They open up communication and enable us to meet in that special story telling place.
What goes into a sensory story?
Typically about ten sentences - they have to be really good ones! Each sentence is paired with a rich sensory stimuli that conveys an event or emotion from the narrative.
Watch the video to hear me describe my plans for the stories.
Ten sentences might not seem like much, I like to think of the art of sensory story writing as being similar to writing poetry. I take particular inspiration from Japenese Haiku.
My favourite Haiku (I'll leave you to guess why) is: "After she's gone, slowly unwinding a long hair from my sweater." Even though it's just twelve syllables it's almost a whole story in itself - think how much could be said with ten of them.
Writing the stories: distilling and refining the text, editing and editing and editing, will form a significant part of the work for this project.
It's really important that the stimuli in a story are good. A picture speaks a thousand words, but actually, as a visual experience a picture is not that great (it looks much like anything else we could see). Total darkness is a big visual experience, as is looking through a colour filter or through a moving grate.
Sensory experiences for stories need to be really big, rich, strong experiences. I give some examples in the film and I'm constantly hunting out new ones. A large amount of the work in this project will be hunting for stimuli.
I have a lot of experience writing sensory stories for different purposes, this article: http://family-bookshelf.org/reading-with-all-5-senses-joanna-grace/ gives a deeper insight into sensory stories if you're curious.
Why are sensory stories special?
I expect, especially if you've watched the video, you are by now either completely baffled or really excited! If you're baffled, I hope this will help. If you're excited I expect you knew a bit about sensory stories before you got here and I hope you're choosing your rewards already.
Sensory stories are fun.
Most importantly sensory stories are fun. All children love sharing stories and it's great to have a new way of doing that. Making reading fun will make children love it and we all want to do that.
Sensory stimulation promotes cognitive development.
Sensory stimulation is vital for cognitive development, in people of all ages and abilities, so sharing a story that also provides sensory stimulation is a great thing to do and will help promote cognitive development.
Sensory stories can be of particular benefit to children with special needs. For children with profound and multiple learning disabilities sensory stories can open avenues of communication. For children who struggle with proprioception or sensory processing difficulties sensory stories can offer a fun way to encounter experiences and counter anxieties. Children with autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, tourettes, and other related disorders can all suffer from hypersensitivity to sensory experiences and may need extra support in this area. Sensory stories are lovely because they can offer that support in a fun way. Sensory stories are also great for children with communication difficulties, being able to tell a story without having to rely on words can enable children who might be nervous about speaking to share a story: telling it using the sensory stimuli. Do get in contact if you'd like to know more about anything I've mentioned in this paragraph.
Why these stories?
These stories are going to be great stories. I'm going to squash everything a child could want in a story into each set of ten sentences, and the experiences are going to be really stimulating. There will be tastes to make you drool, sounds that make you jump, touches you don't want to end, and sights that will dazzle you. Better still you will be able to afford these stories. Sadly in my professional career I have encountered sensory stories that were very pricey, and once purchased, offered only weak experiences. I want great sensory stories available to people for the price of a good book, and with your backing that's what this project will achieve. If successful the sensory stories created by this project will be available to buy online.
I have previously written sensory stories on behalf of Oxfam, Amnesty International, The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, The Booktrust, Worldstories and others. Most are available for free download, to resource yourself, via my website. However all had to be written to convey a specific message, naturally this limited what could be included in the story.
As I mention in the film I also have considerable experience of using sensory stories with different groups of people. My experience of sensory stories is already something I share with others, last year I gave a presentation on sensory stories at the Times Educational Supplement SEN conference, next year I am running a weekend residential course to teach other people how to make sensory stories. They truly are a resource I want to see out there, available and widely used.
Both my experience of writing sensory stories and using them put me in a good position to complete this project. I know that it takes, on average, a month to complete a story. Previously I have not sourced multiple stimuli, i.e. in a story that required a balloon I've only had to find one balloon, for this project I might find myself aiming to find 50 balloons, and though in the case of balloons I'd be confident at doing this I know some of the other stimuli will prove more challenging. There are also other aspects of production that I have not taken on before - e.g. the printing of the story, as when I've worked in collaboration with other organisations I've been the creator alone. For this reason I have added an extra two months onto the time I expect it to take me. I believe this to be reasonable. I will keep everyone (who wants to be) up to date via the facebook page for this project. Hopefully I'll be sending out rewards ahead of the November completion date.
Would you like to know some more about the rewards?
The rewards on this project are a mixture of experiences, knowledge and sharing. I won't go through them all individually because you can see them already in the side bar, but I'll give you a feel for the different things on offer:
Of course there's sensory experiences to be had, whether it's a single smell, or a random experience with a line from a story, or a whole selection to get all your neurons firing. I will be sending you the best experiences I can find: because I hope you'll find them fun, but more even more so because I hope you'll be able to use them to inspire someone else to think about sensory stimuli and sensory stories in a new way.
Many of the rewards have guides on offer. I've tried to keep this project pitch light and friendly. I didn't think you'd want to wade through endless references and academic waffle when browsing this project, but sensory stories are based on something more than just my bright or crazy (depending on how you look at it) ideas. If you'd like to know more about Sensory Stories and the role they have to play in learning and development then you'll find the guides interesting. Again they'll be great for sharing the word about sensory stories with others and they may give you fresh insight into how you can use stories to make connections with young people, regardless of their age or ability.
(This is such a beautiful sound in the flesh, only an echo of itself online)
Some backers will get the chance to personalise stories or even get involved in their creation, but primarily the sharing rewards involve me. I did hum and ha over whether to include them - does it sound big headed to offer myself as a reward? I have a lot of experience of sensory learning, I am completely dedicated to the inclusion of young people with differences, whatever these may be, and I'm very very passionate about the topic and if you choose on of these rewards I'll share some sensory experiences with you, I'll share what I know with you, and I'll share all the enthusiasm I have for the stories with you and whoever else you want me to share it with. I'd be delighted to meet you.
Risks and challenges
My main risk is getting funny looks from people as I hunt for resources.
The main challenge will be to try and resource the stories in a manner that makes them accessible and affordable for everyone. This is something very important to me, I do not want to create stories that require bits of kit so complicated and expensive to deliver the experience that only a few people can buy them or operate them. The ideal senario is the milk bottle lid I talk about in the film: something everyone can find, paid for by time and insight alone.
If the ideal is something everyone can find, then why do you need the money?
The project is something I have been planning to do for a long time, but the cost has been prohibitive - you can imagine how delighted I was when kickstarter launched in the UK.
The money will pay for the writing time and for the stimuli, it will also pay for all the nuts and bolts that surround a project like this: formating and printing the story onto card personalising this with a logo, boxing, safety information, postage costs etc.
I am backing this project with my money as well as yours.
A lesser challenge is the timing of the project. In my experience a sensory story takes about a month to create from start to finish. This time is split 50/50 between writing the story and sourcing the resources. It is impossible to put an exact time on this as it is a creative process, but over the five stories I trust that this estimation will be strong. I hope to start the project in April and finish in November. The two months of time unaccounted for by the writing of the stories will be used throughout the process (it is not my intention to spend five months creating the stories and then two months at the end dealing with everything else) to sort out all the nuts and bolts surrounding the stories. This time will be used to design and print the story cards, to source and box the stimuli, as well as the rewards. It will also be used to write the guides referred to in the rewards which will support people using sensory stories. I have already done considerable research to support the writing of these guides, but it is my intention if time allows to do further research to ensure the guides are as up to date as possible when published. I am confident of delivering this project on time, and hope to deliver it ahead of the 7 month time scale but have allocated 7 months as a worst case scenario because I would hate to disappoint people by completing late.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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