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Sensory books' first project seminar

On the 11th and 12th of May, we held the first Sensory Books Project Seminar. Our first seminar was long awaited after Covid-related delays and travel restrictions for our international project members. We managed to gather in sunshine and good health and share ideas and push our thinking.

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Since the project’s official start in August 2021, there has been a lot of progress. Four work packages with their distinct objectives, tasks and teams, have started. It was useful to discuss the progress in each work package and hear from the team members how they think about senses, children’s reading and olfaction.

In Work Package 1, a meta-analysis will enable us to systematically establish the state of art in children’s reading with digital books. Work is well underway with Adriana Bus, Dieuwer ten Braak and Marta Ciesielska busily coding the studies.

In Work Package 2, two large-scale surveys of parents and kindergarten teachers in Norway will provide us with a solid overview of national attitudes towards children’s sensory engagement in reading. We joined forces with the SPrELL project represented by Trude Hoel and Elisabeth Brekke Stangeland at the meeting. We agreed it that was a win-win decision to send out one joint survey to all key stakeholders and are excited to analyse their attitudes towards children’s reading.

Elisabeth Stray Gausel, in addition to holding the steer of all packages, has been actively coordinating the set-up for an olfactory exhibition with our local partners at Vitenfabrikken, Sandnes library and olfactory expert Lotte Meeuwissen. The exhibition is part of Work Package 3, which also includes finding out about children’s natural sensory engagement with stories and examining children’s olfactory language and ways of documenting it.

As we were discussing the eclectic approaches represented in the team, we were reminded of some essentials holding the project together: the importance of book reading and olfaction in children’s lives.

Professor Adriana Bus held a presentation about the importance of following story-congruent and multimedia design principles in picture books for the new generation of readers. Going back to how impactful children’s literature is on life, we all felt the important task ahead of us to create and research digital books of the highest quality. Dr Laura Speed presented research showing the difficulties with which we express odours in language and how synaesthetic associations may strengthen conceptual representations. The importance of colours and their role in children’s odour recognition brought about some new considerations for the design of our empirical studies.

We are excited that the project grows and expands with new ideas. The team had fun considering various commercial versions of olfactory books, for example the “Smell of Book in a can” and later the innovative oBooks supported with oPhones. Our new project members, post-doc Ingrid Midteide Løkken will join Work Package 4 in August and Phd student Radel James Gacumo has already started his study with a focus on the role of gender in children’s scented stories.

We were fortunate to enjoy the beautiful surroundings of Sola Strand Hotel with the natural surroundings refreshing us during the breaks. The natural scents on the beach scents were inspiring and uplifting for all involved.

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