Category: Dissertation

On thursday we also had the pleasure of listening to a talk from the enigmatic Mark Amerika, the best way to describe him is as follows :-

‘Mark Amerika is an internationally renowned “remix artist” who not only reconfigures existing cultural content into new forms of art, but also mashes up the mainstream media forms and genres that most commercial artists work in. For example, his body of remix artworks includes published cult novels, pioneering works of Internet art, digital video and surround sound museum installations, large scale video projections in public spaces, live audio-visual/VJ performance, and most recently, a series of feature-length “foreign films” shot with different image capturing devices in various locations throughout the world. One of the leading pioneers of early Internet art, Mark Amerika’s art and writing has influenced a new generation of artists using digital processes to create emerging forms of art that intersect at the boundary of visual art, live performance, cinema, and experimental literature.’ (taken from

Mark Amerika - taken from his website -

The guy appeared on the screen in a half lit environment, lit from behind, wearing dark glasses that didn’t allow you to see through to his eyes – that in itself would give ample material for an essay all about this guy, i think! However, he was amazing to listen to – maybe that was the intention…that the dark glasses would make you focus only on the narrative? who knows, but what he had to say was very beneficial.

Mark started off by saying that he was interested in ‘transmedia narrative’, which i thought was an excellent description of a product that is created by using many different types of media – something that i would have referred to in the past as ‘multimodal’. He said that in his ‘pre internet’ days he was influenced mainly by the avant guarde, but in 1992 he went online and his writing changes into multi media. He now works with sound, text, code and film, he said that in the end his writing became ‘more like publishing’ as it was a compilation of many different aspects. He even went as far as to say that he couldn’t write ‘without an internet connection’ as this was his ‘source material’.

He asked the question ‘what does it mean to read in an age of new media?” and in response to his own question he mentioned the term ‘riff reading’, where the reader is the co conspirator, and the post production medium’ – this to be would describe the readers involvement in the narrative, where they contribute their own understanding , which then becomes a part of its existence perhaps? It does beg the question as to whether it is not what we see, but what we perceive that is the important factor here, and that Mark Amerika seems to like to challenge our perception in order to increase our understanding.

He talks about ‘re-mixology’ and says that we are all born remixers .He also makes a good point when he says that a lot of people think that writing has to be ‘linear’ and that that is the traditional way that writing would be constructed where it would automatically move from one point to another – however he says that narrative is a multi media form where things can happen ‘simultaneously and continuously’, there doesn’t have to be the rigid structure and order  that there was before. He mentions that narrative is a ‘multi layered’ experience, that ‘manipulates our notion of time’ and because of that it can no longer be linear.

“dys- narrative” is a phrase he uses, ‘dys’ meaning to throw into confusion, as in dyslexia – the confusion of the words etc. He said that when he uses a dys-narrative it makes it more like an active memory. He posed a question of ‘is the novel dead or is it transitory?’, in reply to this question he said that he views the novel as a ‘publication format’ and refers to the website, whose format can best be described in the writing of Mark Amerika below :_

‘In addition to being a print book published by the prestigious University of Minnesota Press, remixthebook expands the concept of scholarly writing and publishing to include multimedia art forms composed for networked and mobile media environments. website is the online hub for the digital remixes of many of the theories generated in the print book and features the work of artists, creative writers and scholars for whom the practice and theory of remix art is central to their research interests. Since one of the primary aims of the project is to create a collaborative and cross-disciplinary approach to the way contemporary theory is performed, and to anticipate future forms of art and writing that challenge traditional modes of scholarly production while still taking on the philosophical issues of our time, the remixthebook project could be considered an open content platform for others to use as source material for their own art work, literary creations, 21st century multimedia theory, and/or innovative coursework.’ (taken from – by Mar Amerika)

He describes the following type of work shown in this youtube clip as ‘an art form and a literary intervention’

One of the speakers we had the pleasure of listening to and also seeing through a live Skype link was FACTs artist in residence Jeremy Bailey, who is very interested in augmented reality software.Jeremy also loves to be tele-present everywhere so you could see that he also really enjoyed the experience of talking to us and showing us his new creation ‘Interaxon’ – a thought controlled computer.

He explained that the technology is about making you more creative, and that the two most important things are 1, comfort, and 2, control – that would allow you to be creative. He demonstrated the capabilities of the ‘Interaxon’ and how he could draw on the digital screen in front of him by using his mind and thoughts to draw. He used his voice and his brain to move it, clenching his jaw to apply a point, then using the tone of his voice to move it from one area to another depending on whether or not he used high or low pitched sounds, It was interesting to see that he would struggle with it if he wasnt truly relaxed, and this must be to do with the tightness of the jaw.He has also built templates into the programme, and into the software, that represented memories linked to emotions.

Jeremy Bailey - 'Interaxon' - thought controlled computer

Jeremy used his skills to outline the shape of a duck, a bit like the ‘dot to dot’ process that children enjoy to do. He was a really fun and entertaining presenter and it was great to see what he could do with his mind,but you really did get the feeling that this was only in its infancy as the process was so slow, and also i did keep wondering if this was already being done somewhere else?

But an enjoyable session with Jeremy!

On thursday i had the pleasure of attending my first symposium at FACT in Liverpool. Not really knowing what a symposium was i was a little wary about what lay in store. I must admit for the first half an hour i felt totally out of my depth as i realised that the speakers seemed to have digested an academic dictionary before attending the session – and i wondered if it was also going over the heads of the other attendees?

The symposium was opened by the curator of Fact – Omar Kholeif, and incredibly well informed man, who was just a wealth of information on the ever changing role of the narrative.Omar introduced the type of questions that would be considered during the symposium as:-

*has the internet changed the way we  tell stories or give out information?

* has it altered our attention spans?

* has it made us more or less engaged?

* what role has the hyper-linked society?

* how can social media be used to its full capacity in narrative formulation?

Omar discussed whether the internet had changed the way we looked at things – with reference to art he mentioned the website  where art can be explored in a virtual environment, through the internet. My initial thought was that this saddened me a little as so much of art is experienced by actually being within its presence, but then i suppose if the art is conveyed in a digital  format then there wouldn’t be that much difference would there? However we seem to be breeding a world of solitary experiences, encouraging the use of the internet, the computer, the viewing of the digital format……..i tried to be open minded as i listened to the speakers throughout the afternoon…..

As i am very interested in the effect digital media has on our imagination and also our engagement in a narrative i was really looking forward to listening to this symposium. The list of speakers were :-

Andy Campbell – writer and media artist

Andy presented an interactive experience called ‘inanimate alice’. This is a digital experience that unfolds over multiple platforms, the series producer being Ian Harper of the Bradfield Company (  and the writer being Kate Pullinger. He says that there is no book,TV or film series attached to it, and that it is designed to be read from the screen only.He classes is as a ‘digital novel’, where technology meets literature! Originally it was purely web based but it then morphed into being used in the classrooms (on interactive whiteboards) and they have found that because of the interactive aspect of it it is actually encouraging young learners to use their literacy skills, and has also inspired people all over the world to develop their own episodes.

Inanimate Alice uses text, sound, images, games and much more. It tries to get maximum participation from its users,by including games and such like where the reader has to complete tasks as well as reading in order to progress ( i am wondering though at this stage what makes the experience that much different to a Playstation or Xbox game where most of the time participants are having to read and problem solve to progress through the game? – Have they worked out the fact that as kids are so pre occupied with gaming that they may as well include it in the reading experience or else they will not be able to compete? On first looking at inanimate alice i felt totally over stimulated with all the digital information that was being thrown at me.At one point there is a mobile phone on one side of the screen where you are supposed to be taking part in a game, whilst also reading the text at the other side and also listening to some very upbeat sounds and seeing moving colours and lights – all a bit too much for me, whether that is because i have ‘irlens’ syndrome ‘i don’t know, or whether it is to do with my age and the fact that i am not a ‘gamer’ and am not used to it i don’t know.

Here is a teacher called Sarah Brownsword who does a pretty good job at explaining what it is all about:-

You can also experience this more on the official website –

I think i am going to test this site out on my 12 year old and let him play on it and give me some feedback, as at the end of the day it is kids of his age that will probably get the most out of it.

I was concerned though about the effect on the imagination in children and whether or not we are just flooding their senses by over stimulating them. I was pleased to hear Andy say that as Alice herself is never shown in the episodes young children have actually been encouraged to draw alice and create their own. This is good, but i did wonder why they could not encourage more participation with reference to creativity – it is not all about a child’s ability to read – it is about children’s ability to also be able to create from what they read!! They did however mention that there are only 4 episodes so far and that they think that episode 5 may consist of contribution from others, so that in itself is quite creative, however as this application is aimed at all ages, i wonder if they could create one that is only geared at children and included much more scope for children to create their own characters, sounds etc?

I may post again after my sons experience!

The main focus of my dissertation has evolved over the last few months, particularly due to the experience i had teaching the group of 5 – 11 year olds over the summer. I became very interested in what limits and what stimulates children’s imaginations. I noticed that some of the children in the group seemed to be totally restricted by their fear of making a mistake.I overcame that by showing them a Powerpoint on the different types of art, realistic and non realistic,and explained to them that the aim in art is just to be creative.It was very interesting as usually children are not afraid to make a mistake, it is only when we get older that we learn the ‘rules’ and become frightened of breaking them.


Sir Ken Robinson talks about the issue of creativity in a couple of TED talks .I loved watching these as it was a sheer delight to find someone speaking the thoughts that are in my head! For a long time i have been aware (through my Life Coaching work) that we restrict ourselves so much in life because we have this fear of failure. Robinson says ‘if you are not prepared to be wrong you will never come up with anything original’ and here he is referring to children being creative, but i would actually apply that to the whole of life itself. How will we ever know what we are capable of becoming if we never try?’we are educating people out of their creativity’



The education system today has a lot to answer for, with the focus being constantly on the academic subjects, with very little attention or resources given to the arts – as if they are not as important in a child’s upbringing. Robinson says ‘creativity is as important in education as literacy and we should treat it with the same status’ and he is right, where do they think the designers and problem solvers of tomorrow will come from? as well as the writers, illustrators and artists? The governments of today are so short sighted.In the USA they are saying that they are having a ‘creativity crisis’ where children are scoring higher and higher in SATS tests, but lower and lower in the CQ tests (creative quotient). They are trying to remedy this by creating problem solving solutions, and also looking at the effect that digital media has on the imagination potential of a child.

If a child reads a page of a book and it has one picture with it, the picture enables them to visualise the character, but they then have to ‘imagine’ the rest of the story, the movements, the expressions, the voices, and any other abstract thoughts that they may have. In digital stories the child doesn’t have to do any of this as the sound and moving image provides all of the above – leaving nothing for the child’s imagination to work on. As Pie Corbett said (educational advisor to the government) a digital story ‘doesn’t know if you are not listening anymore’ and of course continues with the story. There isn’t a pause for questions, no opportunities to expand on the story, all the information is laid out in front of the child.

I can, however also see the benefits of digital media, in the fact that children with learning difficulties find the digital image easier to work with and it also holds their attention for longer periods of time etc. I think that it is not a black and white situation where we need to be one or the other, more that we need to monitor the effect of excess use of digital media, particularly when it is taking children away from the traditional stories, that stimulate their imagination more. I also think that we need to build into the curriculum some personal development work on ;failure is feedback’ and to allow children to not be frightened of failing, as if they are they will also be frightened of trying –  and that will in the end have a devastating effect on out society in years to come!

On the second session the theme was connected to ‘different body shapes and sizes’ with the emphasis being on the fact that we all come in different sizes, and that no two people are the same! My aim was to encourage children to talk about theirs and others differences, and to be able to embrace our individuality and uniqueness!

The children looked at how to create characters bodies using basic shapes such as a circle, a rectangle, a square or even a star! They then drew both people and animal characters. I then introduced to them the ‘balloon character’ that we were going to create, and that this would be an ongoing project that they would keep working on each week. The basic shape for the balloon is obvioulsy balloon shaped – so they created 4 characters from the basic balloon shape, with the intentins of choosing one of these characters to develop into the model.

Creating balloon characters!

After some well deserved juice we were ready for the second half of the session – which was the lovely yucky, sticky, gooey paper mache!! Each child has a balloon that was taped and secured into a bowl (so that it didnt roll all over the table) lots of strips of newspaper and a tray of flour/ water/ and salt mixture!

Lots of fun was had by all!!

Sticky sticky sticky paper mache!!

Even i got really sticky!!

A few of the finished balloon bodies, all covered and ready for the features adding next week!

The session went really well, although i did notice that i had to put a lot of effort into encouraging the children to use their imaginations when designing their characters – this got less and less as the sessions went on, but in the beginning their initial reaction would be that they couldn’t do it or couldn’t think of anything. There seemed to be this fear that in some way they were going to get it wrong, and that worried them.After i explained to them that it was impossible to get it wrong as each character is individual and unique they seemed to get more into it – we did however seem to get a lot of similar looking birds at the end of this session!     :-0) This experience with the children is however making me very interested as to what stimulates children’s imaginations, and what factors are impacting on children today – something that i may incorporate into my dissertation later on.

After much cleaning, and great feedback from the kids they went home with their character sheets, due to return the next week for more sticky and gooey fun!

Wanted: books that challenge stereotypes

Diversity in children’s books has long been a thorny issue, says Book Doctor – and especially when it comes to tackling inequality between girls and boys. Send us your suggestions

Sherman Alexie

Sherman Alexie, a Native American author, who writes about life on the reservation where he grew up Photograph: Rex Rystedt/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Image

“I’m finding it really difficult to find books for my two-year-old that reflect the diversity of family life in contemporary Britain (both gender and ethnicity),” wrote one mum to Book Doctor.

  1. The Great Big Book of Families
  2. by Mary Hoffman
  3. Buy it from the Guardian bookshop

Search the Guardian bookshop

  1. Tell us what you think: Star-rate and review this book

“Despite valiant efforts and some big strides forward in the 1970s, children’s books remain disappointingly short of enough culturally diverse stories or images,” Book Doctor replied, though she went on to point out some excellent examples.

It’s an issue that hasn’t passed our site members by – they are quick to praise books that offer different viewpoints.

‘Something I think people will like is that it’s a girl (not a boy) who is adventurous, strong and brave’ said Bookworm88, in her review of Dead Man’s Cove by Lauren St John

‘What I loved most was the chance to read about children whose lives are very different from mine”, wrote Lottielongshanks of Sky Hawk, by Gill Lewis

We’d like to find out about more books that show different lifestyles and break the stereotypes. Let us know your favourites by emailing them to us at

Your suggestions

Ali B:
My particular interest is children’s fantasy fiction, and two authors I’ve read and loved recently are Nnedi Okorafor (Nigerian-American) and Chitra Banerjee Divrakuni (Indian American). While unfortunately neither (as far as I know) have a publishing deal in the UK, their books are well worth ordering from your local bookshop or online.

I would particularly recommend Akata Witch by Okorafor, a quest fantasy set in urban Nigeria, drawing on Igbo beliefs, and Divrakuni’s The Conch Bearer and sequels, set in India.

And if an enterprising UK publisher was to see the value of two highly marketable fantasies that are great stories, that would appeal to any fantasy-loving person bereft at the end of the Harry Potter saga, I would be pressing them into the hands of anyone that would listen!

Manasi S

This article is a great idea! I’m the editor at a children’s publishing house based in Chennai, India. We primarily publish picture books.

I want to suggest one title from our own list called Monkeys on a Fast written by Kaushik Viswanath and illustrated by Shilpa Ranade. It’s been published in the UK and Ireland as What? No Bananas? by Hogs Back Books. It’s a title that’s done well in Denmark as well and is very popular as a picture book and an audio book in India. It’s a story based on a Buddhist legend about a tribe of monkeys that decide to go on a diet, but find that they simply cannot stay away from bananas.

Other Indian children’s books that we recommend include Swami and Friends by R. K. Narayan and the graphic art books from Amar Chitra Katha.

Sarah S:
Just spotted your article. I’ve recently been introduced to Mr Pam
Pam and the Hullabazoo by Trish Cooke
– a wonderful picture book with
great rhythm for young children. I’m a childminder and the
four-year-old boy I look after loves it. Mr Pam Pam and the Hullabazoo are probably a same-sex couple, and the characters aren’t white.

Jon S:
I think it’s great you’ve raised this issue. As director of a festival that promotes South Asian literature, one thing that is particularly troubling is how I’ve noticed there is little there is in the way of children’s books with diverse characters available in the UK.

I’d like to mention Saadhak Books, a tiny outfit which my festival colleague is slowly but surely bringing into this world. They are all about reviving colourful Indian folk tales. The first one Laghu the Clever Crow was originally a ‘panchatantra’ tale in Sanskrit. It’s the first of a series set in the UK with the Granny Geeta character reading to her grandson – beautiful hand-painted colour illustrations!

Jenny L:
Bob Graham does ok. Oscar’s Half Birthday at least goes into the mixed race issue, and they live in a housing estate.

Thank you for bringing awareness to an important issue developing in publishing today. The need for representation is growing and yet authentic voices are few and far between. Please excuse the non-traditional approach here, but I feel passionately enough about the issue of non stereotypical books that I would like to suggest the following titles which include two of my own:

Bird by Zetta Elliott
Violet by Tania Duprey
The Black Book of Colors by Menena Cottin
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie
A Lion’s Mane by Navjot Kaur
Dreams of Hope by Navjot Kaur

Ros Asquith:
Be great if you could add Mary Hoffman’s The Great Big book of Families (single parents, two dads, two mums, disability etc etc published by Frances Lincoln and illustrated by me…)

Nicky P:
Frances Lincoln children’s books are well known for publishing books that celebrate the colourful world we live in and its varied ethnicities. Here are a few picture books recommendations.
The modern classic Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman with illustrations by Caroline Binch was first published 20 years ago and other stories about Grace have followed.
Sarah Garland’s Billy and Belle is another classic featuring a modern family. Niki Daly’s stories about Jamela capture a reflection of multicultural, modern South Africa.
In Floella Benjamin’s My Two Grannies and My Two Grandads, the much loved grandchild finds ways to make her grandparents (one couple from Trinidad and the other from the North of England) stop squabbling about different food and music and to become friends.
For under fives, the Lenny books by Ken Wilson–Max are hugely appealing and it is the dad who is looking after his young son.

Kate P
Julia doesn’t mention representation of disability, another big area where publishers could do better. Anyway, here’s a few suggestions to add:

Through my Window by Tony Bradman and Eileen Browne – Mixed race family living on an estate, where Mum goes to work and Dad stays at home. Beat that. (The clothes and hairstyles are hilariously 1980s for an adult, but my kids don’t care.)

Shirley Hughes’ Alfie books may focus on a white family but the surroundings are very much multicultural Britain, the kids at Alfie’s nursery look exactly like the kids at mine.

In the Town is a picture word book by Benedict Blathwayt which has plenty of cultural mix in the people it depicts (including quite a few people in wheelchairs, for once).

Emlly S:

In relation to your piece about culturally diverse books, can I suggest a
few Frances Lincoln titles?

We are all Born Free.

Get Lost, Laura.

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18 Feb 2011

Seven of the UK’s top ten most borrowed authors write books for children

i have come across the illustrator and author Lane Smith many times, but actually it was my mum that kindly sent me an article from the sunday telegraph magazine that featured a book by Lane Smith called “it’s a book!”. She initially told me about the book as she is a real hater of technology and the way it is taking over the world, and mentioned this book as it is ” a Book is about a book loving monkey, a tech savvy jackass and a straight talking little mouse.” ( and it tackles the issue of books versus computer technology, and by using humour it  shows how the world does seem to be going slightly mad!!!!

For me, and for my impending dissertation, this book, and the author, will prove to be very interesting – my dissertation being based on the move towards computer technology and away from traditional book reading, with particular reference to the bed time story – and the effect this is having on children today.I intend to contact Lane and see if he would be kind enough for me to interview him on the topic.

I like the simplicity of this book, and i like the simple images he uses, but then enhances them with the use of Photoshop (the use of which could be seen as being slightly ironic, possibly?) but he admits himself that this does speed up the creative process greatly.He starts off his drawings using ink and a brush, but he continually wipes his brush so that it gives a dry brush effect when drawing:-

(all images taken from Lanes blog – of his wonderful work can be seen at

Lane Smiths image from “it’s a book” – before colouring

He then uses oils on Hot pressed illustration board, and sprays them with acrylic spray whilst the oils are still wet, which then creates lovely textures. He then scans them into Photoshop and uses the textures in the images.

It was interesting to read that initially, the first copy of the book was based on a goofy looking boy, but Lane decided not to use this image as he didn’t want readers to think he was making fun of a child, so he then decided to use animals instead.

original character for the bookLane felt these images may make readers think he was making fun of children, so he changed it to an animal instead.

Here is a you tube video of the book – interesting that the video is so enjoyable – as i am sure the book is – but they both bring something different to the reader or viewer…hmmmmm interesting hey?

the final images - showing the 'textures' used

Whilst researching for evidence for my dissertation, on the subject of the effect of colours used in bedtime stories i came across this article written in the Telegraph (ref

The article talks about the effect bedtime stories have on the child’s ability to read, and how the action of reading the story to the child is no where near as effective as sitting and having a conversation with them.They also comment that what they call ‘adult monologueing’ (in other words adults talking at children) had a weak impact on language development, but engaging children in basic conversation could be up to six times more effective than reading to them – this was decided by US health experts!!

I think this is an interesting article, especially the results of the research, in that they found that when they tested 275 families with children up to the age of four and measured their exposure to speech from adults, other children and television, and then tested their language score they found that children exposed to conversations scored six times as high as those being read to.

I think that the results are amazing but what i would  like to challenge them on is the fact that reading bedtime stories surely has more benefits that promoting the use of language in children? It is about bonding with the children, helping them to feel loved and secure, and also the fact that the reading of bedtime stories is known to help children with sleeping as firstly their minds are left with lovely images and stories to dream about and also there is an element of ‘hypnosis’ that occurs within the process of the story reading. it is also important to note the increase in the rates of insomnia in young children nowadays since a lot of parents have decided not to take the time to read stories and instead a lot of children cannot sleep unless there is a DVD playing or use some other form of distraction to enable sleep.

I wonder how many of these so called experts have ever come across a 7 year old child who cannot speak as well as another because they were ‘read ‘ children’s stories? Do children not all develop at their own rates? and i know when i was reading stories to my young children i would ask the questions about the pictures and the stories as well as reading the book, so in that way surely you get the best of both worlds? In a world where in my opinion children and adults are becoming ‘over stimulated’, and the favourite evening past times are becoming games on Playstations, X Boxes etc, or the contstant looking at TV’S it seems to be that our goal is to to try and get human beings experiencing everything at a younger and younger age…….Andy Warhol made a comment (of which i cannot quote at the moment – sorry) but it was about how he became so overstimulated that he felt numb, as if he was watching life on some sort of TV screen, and that is what i feel we need to be careful of – detachment, becoming dispassionate about life……we need to touch, and be loved and touched, and to feel and experience things first hand in order to really get the most from life!!!!


in my opinion…….:0)

Seeing as how the thought of producing a dissertation leaves me cold, i thought i would take on board the advice of one of the tutors – and also a friend of mines, and start on it straight away, and then just keep chipping away at it (as i don’t think it really is the best thing to be left until the last minute!


One of my interestes is the effect colour has on the emotions, particularly children as they struggle more to release emotion or to deal with it, and there are also so many children out there who have learning differences that can be affected by colour.Both of my children have learning differences, one has ADHD and Dyslexia and the other is on the Autistic spectrum, and over the years i have become aware of the part colour plays in their lives, whether it be the food that they eat, the fluids they drink, the clothes that they wear, or the colour of the environment that they are in. I am very interested to look deeper into this and to look at how these theories can be incorporated intot childrens illustration, and to utilise my knowledge as a Holistic Therapist, my experience of a mother who has helped hwe children through trauma, and also as an artist – and budding childrens illustrator.

I will just keep posting articles onto the blog that eventually i will use for my dissertation, and the fist thing i am interested in finding is research that has been carried out in this area…

The following posts and links were taken from the website -National clearing house for educational fascilities -(NCEF) (ACCESSED 30/11/10)

The Best Paint Color for Classroom Walls.
Dinsmore, Kevin
(eHow, Apr 01, 2010)

The right color shade can transform a distracted, frazzled environment into a calm and focused space. This discusses beneficial colors and what to avoid. 2p.

The Top Color Schemes for a School Classroom.
Stephenson, D. R.
(eHow, Jan 03, 2010)

Discusses considerations in choosing the best colors for a classroom, including color for quiet study, for physical exercise, for regular classrooms, for children of different ages, and for school hallways.

Classroom Colors Make a Difference.
Smith, Linda
(Hertz Furniture Systems, Mahwah, NJ , 2009)

Discusses the psychology of color, color recommendations for classrooms, the effect of various colors on mood and concentration, and opportunities for adjusting classroom color through furniture and furnishings selection. 2p.

Color in an Optimum Learning Environment.
Daggett, Willard R., Cobble, Jeffrey E., Gertel, Steven J.
(International Center fo Leadership in Education, Rexford, NY , Mar 2008)

Discusses color as an important factor in the physical learning environment, and as a major element in interior design that impacts student achievement, teacher effectiveness, and staff efficiency. Specific colors and patterns directly influence the health, morale, emotions, behavior, and performance of learners, depending on the individual’s culture, age, gender, and developmental level, the subject being studied, and the activity being conducted 9p.

Giving School a Radical Makeover.
(TeacherNet, Department for Children, Schools and Families, London, England. , 2007)

Case study of a secondary school in England that used bold colors to improve the learning environment. This simple step has created more effective learners and a community feel.

The Color of Debate: Chapter 1
(Designshare, Minneapolis, MN , 2007)

Presents a debate between school designers over the impact of color in the learning environment. The debate contrasts the designers’ instincts against the existence and quality of actual research-based evidence on the emotive effect of various colors in learning environments. 7p.

Why We Think Blue is Calming: Color-Mood Associations as Learned or Innate.
Vining, Diana
(University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. , Apr 26, 2006)

This paper explores the question of how we develop specific aesthetic reactions to particular colors. The existing literature on color-mood associations is described. The author concludes that there is a large, albeit indirect, body of research supporting the theory of color-mood associations as learned. Differences in color preferences across cultures and across ages seem to negate any idea of color universals. The few arguments for color-mood associations as innate are weak and tied to misunderstandings about the nature of hue versus brightness in color. Includes 19 references. 11p.

The Effect of School Interior Environment on Students’ Attitudes toward School: Suggestions for Philadelphia Public Schools.
Vining, Diana
(Diana Vining, University of Pennsylvania , Apr 2006)

Presents options for improving school appearance, including paint finishes, colors, and application; lighting types, controls, and colors; and materials for flooring, art display, and plantings. Also included are suggestions for how to involve students and the community, as well as making school improvement and maintenance a part of the educational program. Includes 13 references. 21p.

Primary Ideas: Projects to Enhance Primary School Environments.
(Dept. for Education and Skills, London, United Kingdom , 2006)

Presents a toolkit of design principles, creative ideas, and projects for primary school environments, aimed at inspiring staff, pupils and parents. Its aim is to help schools take an inclusive approach towards rebuilding, refurbishing and upgrading premises. The publication contains examples from the United Kingdom and overseas and includes case studies by the authors from work carried out in building two new classrooms at Ballifield Primary School in Sheffield. 86p.

TO ORDER: The Stationery Office, London

Learning, Lighting, and Color.
Fielding, Randall
( , 2006)

Reviews learning patterns and its connection to visual stimuli. Proper lighting for school entryways and science laboratories is covered, and seven myths about lighting and color in educational architecture are challenged. 7p.

Joined Up Design for Schools
Sorrell, John; Sorrell, Frances
(Merrell Publishers, New York, NY , Jan 2005)

Profiles over sixty projects in which school children thoughout Britain have commissioned pioneering concepts from an array of notable international designers and architects. The client teams of children engaged designers to respond to their everyday needs and concerns, and this volume describes and illustrates an range of projects that deal with the built environment, communications, storage, color, clothing and identity in schools. 192p.

TO ORDER: 49 West 24th St., 8th floor, New York, NY 10010

The Impact of Color on Learning.
Engelbrecht, Kathie
(Perkins & Will, Chicago, IL , Jun 18, 2003)

Presents a compliation of studies conducted by color psychologists, medical, and design professionals. Biological reaction to colors affects vision, mood, and productivity. Thoughtful use of color also aids in wayfinding. Color suggestions for different age groups and room type are offered. (Includes 14 references.) 5p.

The next lot of information is about helping children to read using colour, and was found on the website  – on an article published in Dyslexia Review7(3), 1996)

Arnold Wilkins

MRC Applied Psychology Unit, Cambridge

Until recently there was little convincing evidence that colour could help with reading, but such evidence is emerging and slowly acquiring the scientific respectability it has hitherto lacked.Reading can be helped with coloured overlays and with coloured lenses. You may wish to check my answers to frequently asked questions.

The Irlen Institute

Helen Irlen, a psychologist from California, has established Irlen Centres in many western countries. She aims to treat a syndrome that she has variously named “Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome” o2r “Irlen syndrome”. According to Irlen, this is a syndrome in which reading is hampered by distortions of print. The distortions abate when the text has a particular colour, different for each individual[1]. The Irlen Centres diagnose the required colour and issue individually dyed coloured lenses.

The first detailed description of the syndrome that I have been able to find is by a astute teacher from New Zealand, Olive Meares[2]. She describes the difficulty certain children have with glare from the page and the way in which this glare can be reduced by coloured filters placed over the page.

Perceptual distortions

It is interesting to listen to children who benefit from coloured filters giving a description of what they see when they look at a page of text. Many describe quite florid distortions which their vocabulary is often inadequate to convey to a sceptical adult. They may, for example, say “the text fizzes” or “the letters jumble” or “fall off the edge of the page”, or “the white page comes up and hits my eyes”. Sometimes the children suppose that these distortions are normal and do not mention them until prompted by questions such as “Do the letters and words do anything they should not do, after you have been reading for a while.”

Scientific knowledge

These distortions of spatial perception are poorly understood and there is no scientific rationale for supposing they might be reduced with colour. Indeed there is little scientific rationale for supposing that colour might affect spatial perception in any way. Current knowledge suggests that the image captured by the eye is processed in modules that keep certain aspects of spatial information at least partially independent of information concerning colour. Not only has the study of colour perception and spatial perception proceeded along separate lines, the notion that there are differences in visual processing between different observers has usually been ignored for the sake of simplicity.

Claims that colour could reduce spatial distortions in text, and that each individual benefited from a different colour are therefore quite free from any basis in established knowledge, and run counter to the little that has been established. Given the absence of any scientific rationale, scepticism was understandable. It was fuelled by Irlen’s use of the term “Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome” because the word scotopic is used to refer to the activity of the rods, receptors that are active at twilight.

The lack of a scientific rationale for a treatment does not, of course, mean that the treatment does not work! Many successful medical treatments are empirical and without a well established scientific rationale. As we will see, Irlen’s claims have been borne out in recent scientific investigations, and in recognition of her contribution and that of Meares, it would seem appropriate to give the name “Meares-Irlen syndrome” to the cluster of symptoms of perceptual distortion and visual discomfort with which reading is sometimes associated.

Recent scientific evidence

We began our investigation of the effects of colour on reading in 1989 by examining 20 clients who had received Irlen’s coloured lenses and who found them beneficial. We gave the clients a wide range of tests: those that an optometrist would conventionally use and less conventional tests designed to assess perceptual function and reading. These tests revealed surprisingly little, although the Irlen lenses appeared to reduce perceptual distortion and to improve the speed of visual search by a small amount[3]. Nevertheless the clinical histories the clients gave were convincing and consistent: most reported improvements in reading and a reduction in headaches. 16 of the 20 individuals had migraine in the family. We had earlier studied relationships between migraine and susceptibility to perceptual distortions[4], and so we thought the issue deserved further investigation.

Intuitive Colorimeter System

To study the effects of colour we needed an instrument that would allow colours to be sampled in a simple way. Clients needed to be able to obtain any subtle shade systematically, so that if indeed there was a colour that reduced distortions, they would be able to find it. We invented a device which has subsequently become known as the Intuitive Colorimeter[5]. It is simply a box with an aperture through which can be seen a page of text lit uniformly with light of a particular colour. One control on the side of the instrument changes the colour (hue), onechanges the depth of that colour (saturation), and a third control changes the brightness. Using this device it was simple to demonstrate that individuals who reported distortions of text were often able to find a colour where those distortions disappeared and the text appeared stable and comfortable to view. The range of colours over which this improvement occurred was often quite small, and the optimum colour varied from one individual to another. Settings made using this instrument have proved to be reliable[6], notwithstanding early claims to the contrary[7].

Many of the children we saw could not afford to obtain Irlen lenses, so we tried to help them by selecting colours from the cosmetic tints then available. The intention was to provide glasses that under conventional lighting would produce the colour the child had selected in the Colorimeter. Sometimes these would be successful, but often a child would say “these are good, but not as good as the colourbox”. We tried dyeing our own lenses, dipping CR39 resin lenses into hot dye until the required depth of colour was obtained. This improved matters, but it was clear that the dyes we had available did not sample colours adequately or systematically, particularly greens. At this point we were visited by a firm who manufactured cosmetic dyes. They were interested in the Colorimeter and offered to help produce a range of trial lenses that would sample colours systematically and thoroughly. Before long we had a range of trial lenses that could reproduce any colour very simply, and with a very high degree of precision. It was a simple matter to dye spectacle lenses to match a chosen combination of trial lenses.

Preliminary observations and open trials

In preliminary trials[8] there were remarkable clinical results in a few cases. One patient springs to mind. She could not correctly read the words was and saw. In a list in which these words occurred at random her performance was similarly random. She was unaware of her errors, but reported that the s and w moved around. With a particular yellow hue this illusory movement ceased, and she was then able to read the words quite correctly, even though she was still unaware as to whether or not her performance was correct. Changing the hue slightly resulted in a return to the previous random performance.

Following publicity, we saw 50 individuals, mainly children, who reported perceptual distortions when reading. These volunteers were offered coloured overlays, and, if the overlays were helpful, the volunteers were assessed with the Colorimeter and offered lenses of the selected hue free of charge. We interviewed these individuals after they had been in possession of the lenses for more than 10 months. A surprisingly high proportion (82%) reported they were still using the glasses[9]. This provided the motivation for a double-masked trial.

Double-blind study

A double-blind or double-masked trial is one in which none of the participants, neither investigators or subjects, knows which is the experimental treatment and which is a sham treatment against which the experimental treatment is being compared. Such trials are invariably used to assess a new drug before it is released on the market. The sham (placebo) must be indistinguishable from the active drug in terms of its appearance. It is only in this way that the effectiveness of a drug can be assessed independently of a person’s belief in it. Many people thought it was impossible to undertake a double-masked study of tinted lenses because participants would know which colour they had selected, and this would be the one they believed in. Fortunately, the Colorimeter circumvented this difficulty.

Using the Colorimeter it was possible to determine the colour that subjects found beneficial for perception without them knowing the shade of the lenses that provide that colour under conventional lighting. This was because when subjects observe text in the Colorimeter they adapt to the coloured light and are eventually unaware quite how strong a colour is illuminating the page. When the appropriate lenses are provided they appear far more strongly coloured than expected.

The children who took part in the study selected their optimal colour in the colorimeter. The hue wheel was then turned until the child reported the distortions starting to reappear, and this setting provided a placebo control. Spectacle lenses were made to match each setting, and one pair, active or placebo, selected at random, was glazed into frames and sent to the child. The child kept the glasses for a four-week period during which a headache diary was completed, and then the spectacles were returned.

After a four-week interval while the frames were reglazed (active lenses being replaced by placebo and vice versa), the spectacles were returned for a second period of four weeks during which the headache diary was completed. Two optometrists, Dr Bruce Evans and Jenny Brown helped us conduct the study.

Despite the small sample of children (only 31 completed headache diaries systematically), there was a clear reduction in headaches when the active lenses were worn, as compared with the placebo[10]. In seven of the children the reduction was most unlikely to have occurred by chance. In none of the children was there a significant reduction with the placebo lenses. The likelihood of such a result by chance was less than 0.5%. And this was despite a very small difference in colour between the active and placebo lenses.

The effects on reading were more equivocal. Scores on the Neale Analysis of Reading Ability were better with either lens than with neither, but although the scores with the active lenses were superior to those with the placebo, the difference could well have occurred by chance. As will become clear later, the Neale Analysis is not the most sensitive instrument for investigating the effects of colour on reading.

Earlier studies

The double-masked study lends credence to earlier studies. As others have remarked, “many of these studies have been difficult to interpret due to design problems, such as selection bias, sample size, heterogeneity of subjects, subjectivity of results, financial interest of investigators, and failure to consider such factors as placebo effect, controls, and ophthalmic status of subjects.”[11] It also helps to explain the failure of several well-controlled studies to reveal any beneficial effects of colour. One such study was by Menacker and colleagues[11]. These authors measured reading errors and used a limited choice of coloured lenses. They failed to show any difference between the coloured lenses and grey (neutral density) lenses. Martin and colleagues[12] also measured reading performance but did so with and without Irlen lenses and failed to show improvements in reading. If the effects of coloured lenses have more to do with symptoms of eye-strain and headache than with reading per se, as the double-masked study suggests, then these findings are to be expected. As will become clear from the studies described below, the effects of colour depend critically on typography. Colour has its greatest benefit with text that is small and closely spaced. With more conventional text the effects on reading speed take time to appear, and do so only when the reader is beginning to tire.


Overlays are sheets of coloured plastic that can be placed upon a page so as to colour the text beneath without interfering with its clarity. There are several studies that have used coloured overlays rather than lenses. Some of these studies have shown improvements in reading, at least in selected clients[13,14]. As Solan[15] has remarked, the studies that have shown beneficial effects have generally been conducted by investigators associated with the Irlen Centres; independent investigators have usually failed to show any effects.

Tyrrell and colleagues[16] measured the speed with which a child read a passage photocopied from a book chosen by the child. On separate days and in random order the reading was undertaken with or without an overlay the child had selected as optimal. About half the children chose a clear overlay, included as a control, and the remainder chose one of the coloured Irlen overlays. The reading continued for 15 minutes, and initially there was no difference in speed between the two conditions. Differences emerged only after the children had been reading for 10 minutes and had begun to tire. The children who had chosen a coloured overlay slowed up when they were reading without it, and reported symptoms of eye-strain; the children who had chosen a clear overlay reported fewer symptoms, did not slow up, and showed no benefit from use of the overlay. The children who took part in the above study were selected from the entry year of a secondary school, and a surprisingly high proportion reported improvements in the appearance of text using an overlay, a greater proportion among the children with reading difficulty than among the good readers.

In two subsequent studies, as yet unpublished, we have examined all the children aged 7-11 in two primary schools, using the Intuitive Overlays[17]. These differ from other overlays on the market in that they sample a wide range of colours systematically and efficiently. As in the study by Tyrrell and colleagues, about 50% of children reported improvements in the perception of text with one of the overlays. These children were given their preferred overlay free of charge to use as and when they wished. After 10 months about half the children were, of their own volition, still using the overlay.

In these recent studies reading speed was assessed using a test we devised called the “Rate of Reading Test”. This test consists simply of a passage of words that a subject is required to read aloud as rapidly and as accurately as possible. The words are all of very high frequency and are therefore familiar to most children, even those whose reading is very poor. The words are arranged in random order to minimise contextual cues. The text is printed in small closely spaced lettering so that any visual difficulty is maximised and affects reading speed after only a short period of reading.

The rate of reading measured using this test is highly reliable from one examination to the next, but differs considerably from one child to another. The difference in a child’s rate of reading with and without a chosen overlay predicts whether the child will continue to use the overlay. Children who will subsequently persist in using their overlay average an increase in speed of 15% when reading with the overlay. In some children the increase can be as great as 50%[18].

The increase in reading speed cannot readily be attributed to motivation because: (1) clear or grey filters usually have little effect; (2) the increase in speed occurs only when the text is visually stressful; (3) as mentioned above, children persist in using the overlay for many months without prompting. The increase occurs in children who have been carefully screened for refractive errors and anomalies of binocular vision[18].

We obviously need to know why such a large proportion of children in British schools seem to be demonstrating a visual component of reading difficulty. What proportion of children receive adequate visual screening, and what proportion of children continue to use their overlay once they have received adequate optometric and orthoptic treatment? These are questions that we are now trying to answer.

Physiological basis

The physiological basis for the beneficial effects of colour remains uncertain and contentious. The effects can no longer be dismissed as placebo effects and some physiological explanation is called for. In a recent book Visual Stress[19] , I draw attention to the similarities between the physiological mechanisms that induce seizures in patients with photosensitive epilepsy and those responsible for photophobia in migraine. The children who find colour helpful usually have migraine in the family, and migraine is now known to have subtle effects on vision. The argument is spelled out in detail in the book, with supporting evidence that cannot be given here. In essence, the perceptual distortions are attributed to a hyperexcitability within the visual system, neurones firing inappropriately as a result of a spread of excitation. Coloured spectacles are thought to reduce the excitability by redistributing the excitation within the neural network of the cortex so as to avoid localised areas of hyperexcitability. This is only one viewpoint among several but it brings together a great many very disparate pieces of evidence. Scientific theories are only as good as the predictions they make, and this theory predicts that coloured glasses will prove of benefit in photosensitive epilepsy and certain forms of migraine. There are initial indications that this may indeed be the case.

To access the above information i entered –

research into the effect of colour on children – it is interesting to see that there is more work done on the effect on learning, and reading and less done on the emotional effect, but as i am only at the start of my research i will endeavour to persevere!!

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