Building a Better Book

September 26, 2019


By: Shannon Smith, former Library Specialist 

In January, UW Libraries, in collaboration with the UW Lab School, was selected as a partner site for the Build a Better Book (BBB) project at the University of Colorado Boulder. This project is supported by the National Science Foundation, and partner sites range from school libraries to public libraries to academic libraries. The BBB project seeks to help empower school and library makerspaces to “engage youth in the design and fabrication of inclusive media, including picture books, games and graphics.” This process focuses on the iterative nature of fabrication, testing, and refining designs.

 group of people standing in front of a star wars droid graphic

Pictured above:  Build a Better Book workshop attendees, including Teresa Strube & Shannon Smith, visiting sphero in Boulder, CO in March.

two women posing for photo in front of a building

Pictured above: Shannon Smith and Teresa Strube attending the Build a Better Book Workshop in Boulder, CO in March. 

Teresa Strube, UW Lab School Math & Science Teacher, and Shannon Smith, Library Specialist at the Learning Resource Center, joined other members from the 2019 cohort of partner sites to participate in an immersive training experience. Over the course of the training participants were asked to challenge their assumptions of accessibility, step outside of their comfort zones, and engage in conversations to enhance the work of Universal Design within their various maker communities. 

students and teacher standing at table discussing book creation project             students painting cardboard to build an accessible book

Pictured above: 7th & 8th grade students from UW's Lab School Tactile Design Elective course building better books.

The BBB 2019 cohort explored low to no-tech approaches for building tactile and immersive stories and games. Participants discussed in-depth how popular makerspace tools such as Makey Makeys, 3D pens and printers, laser printers, and conductive boards can enhance the goals of student designs as a way to add additional texture and sound to projects. The two-day workshop included tours of Sphero robotics, SparkFun Electronics, and the Boulder Public Library Makerspace (BLDG 61). The librarians and teachers shared their experiences from their maker-centered spaces, heard from researchers on their lessons learned with youth, and even spoke to youth in Boulder who had designed their own multi-lingual (braille, Spanish, and English) board game.

close up of student using a hot glue gun to make an accessible book      student using crafts to make an accessible book

Pictured above: 7th & 8th grade students from UW's Lab School Tactile Design Elective course building better books.

The power of these conversations centered on the possibilities for this work to help youth learn to think from a different point of view. This focus of the project seeks to build empathy among sight-abled youth to support the needs of other youth in their communities both near and far. BBB wants these youth to ask themselves who they are as makers and how they can support the needs of others through the implementation of tactile and audio features into hands-on projects. We are excited to begin our work as BBB partners with middle school students at the UW Lab School, especially as a way to increase conversations of diversity and inclusion. They particularly want to help students explore how design and making can help them become change-makers in the world.

group of people standing and kneeling in front of a tactile alphabet on a wall.

Pictured above: Shannon Smith, Teresa Strube, and students show off their tactile alphabet setup in the Literacy Reseach Center and Clinic (LRCC)

Check out this video below to find out more about the Bulid a Better Book Project: 




University of Wyoming Libraries

Dept. 3334

1000 E. University Ave. 

Laramie, WY 82071

(307) 766-3190

(800) 442-6757

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