“Voyage to Arghan” is a new sensory story, conceived and written by Joanna Grace, (an international sensory engagement and inclusion specialist), and beautifully illustrated by Helen Lanzrein. It tells the story of Nila, who excitedly wins a competition to be the “first child in space” and embarks on a sensory adventure in search of an elusive Polygrin feather.
The story is a simple one, and that is a deliberate creative choice made by the author with young children in mind. But what makes this book different from virtually every other book you’ve ever read, is the attention given to stimulating all your senses, not merely those audio-visual senses so often employed during a traditional ‘story time’. As we travel with Nila to distant worlds, we also get to experience the smells, physical and kinaesthetic experiences too. We are encouraged to stretch and reach out, moving our bodies as Nila does; to feel the effect of breath through the body and to quench our thirst with the taste of real water. That is why the author uses the term ‘story experiencers’ rather than ‘readers’ or ‘listeners’ to describe her target audience; because to fully engage with the story is to experience its twists and turns, ups and downs with full sensory involvement.
Most of us are aware of the five senses through which we experience the world to a lesser or greater degree: sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. Others would add the sense of proprioception (understanding where our bodies are in space) and the sense of balance (understanding our physical alignment in relation to gravity) too. In everyday living, we generally involve all of these senses in some way, but until now, reading a story has meant just that – ‘reading’ a story, not ‘experiencing’ it. This new book, however, allows all our senses to be stimulated; is simple to use, and brings several benefits to those experiencing it.
Research shows that by engaging all the senses, a child’s development can be enhanced. It encourages the development of neural pathways; helps with cognitive growth and language skills; and encourages both fine and gross motor skills. We all have our preferred method of learning too - some learn by observing, others prefer to listen, and some need to be active to gain the greatest benefit. This new book encourages all forms of learning and promotes inclusion as there is something in it for everyone. The language is also deliberately simple so as not to put off children who may struggle with language issues.
There are clear instructions on how to present the sensory session, including a list of resources needed, and some questions to ask afterwards to test comprehension and encourage understanding. There’s even a practical ‘make your own Arghanian box craft too.
All in all, this is a delightful little book that packs much into its few pages, and begs the question: why are there not more of such books being used with our children daily?
The book is available to buy here.