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**Together book: Research design and rationale** Project lead: Bea Paterson-Achenbach Supported by: Alice Mitchell and Fiona Jordan Our goal with the Together project was to design a children’s book that would allow us to research kinship language and ideas about belonging in many different sociocultural contexts. We began by reading about visual research methods and visiting bookshops to see if we could find any existing children’s books that might be suitable for our purposes. While we collected some ideas from the books we looked at, we decided that a purpose-designed book was the best way forward. **Research aims** The aim of the research tool is primarily to gather kinship language, which may come in several forms. Firstly, it may take the form of categorial and relational nouns, referring to specific family members, as well as vocabulary related to the family. Secondly, it may include more abstract concepts of family and community, such as love, belonging or togetherness. Thirdly, it may take the form of an expression of difference between characters, perhaps pertaining to generations and hierarchies, kin vs non-kin, gender, and intimate vs distant relationships. Somehow we wanted to create images that would not predetermine any of these ideas. In the interview process, the book would be given to a child, and they would ‘tell the story’ to the researcher. The element of ‘child-led’ research was very important to us. As cited in much of the literature surrounding research with young children, it is important that the child determines the course of the research to allow for the most authentic results (Palaiologou, 3013; Lomax, 2012; Drew et al. 2010). **Specifications and decisions** The first specification was that the book was to be wordless, in order that it be used in cross-cultural settings where English is not a dominant language, and to alleviate any linguistic bias. In addition, it was decided that the images themselves needed to be trans-cultural, so as not to offer any cultural bias. As a result, the use of shapes, rather than humanoid or animalistic characters was selected. This is because humanoid and animalistic characters have a high chance of being gendered either consciously or subconsciously by both researchers, illustrators, and by participants themselves as a result of culturally persistent gender bias present in much of children’s literature (Brugeilles et al., 2002). The researcher settled on the use of tangrams, a chinese shape puzzle made of seven different shapes which fit together in a perfect square, but may also be arranged to create a myriad of figures including animals, letters, numbers, objects and so on. The use of tangrams was also postulated to have an educational benefit, meaning the book could be used as a mathematical education tool to teach children about shape and space, as well as gathering linguistic data. By using two tangram sets of contrasting colours the opportunity would be given for the children to comment on kinship through shape, colour and size. A further trans-cultural specification was that the book should be able to be read both left-to-right and right-to-left. This is to account for languages such as Arabic and Urdu where text is read right-to-left. Moreover, the researcher was anxious not to tend towards nuclear notions of family in the illustrations, or towards the notion of a two parent heterosexual family which is so common in current familial discourse in the UK. The researcher was keen to offer the opportunity for all sorts of family relationships to be identified, such as single parent households, households with same-sex parents, households with many parental figures, and family groups which extend beyond genetic relation. Thus, the book was to be as abstract as possible. Despite the abstract nature of the book, it was clear from a review of the literature and consideration of children’s books currently available in the UK, that certain things were needed to make the book interesting for children. Firstly, as discussed by Styles and Arzipe (2001), children are drawn to detail in books, particularly in the images. The more detail in the images, the more the children are intrigued. This was also clearly a key component for many wordless books studied by the researcher. Thus, in the final stages of design, the researcher incorporated an increase in detail into the design of the pictorial narrative, with the pages increasing in detail, with the climax point in the middle of the book, and then a decrease in detail to simulate climax-resolution. This mirrored format also offered the ability for the book to be read palindromically. Further to this, as well as the tangram ‘characters’, all the surrounding elements were to be made from tangrams, adding depth to the detail in the book. A final consideration was whether or not the book was to be given a title. Whilst a title would be useful for guiding the child to think about notions of kinship (given the abstract nature of the book), it would be difficult to translate. It was decided that for pilot tests, a book with and without a title was to be made, to judge the effect it had on the research. The title ‘Together’ was chosen. **Suggested research method** It is suggested by the researcher that the book be used to interview children individually. The sample size should be between 15 and 30 children. 30 children would be necessary for any form of quantitative analysis. The book would be given to the child to look through, then the child would be asked to narrate the book to the researcher. The researcher will not ideally prompt the child, except in certain circumstances where the child is confused, unwilling to participate or shy. In order to direct the activity towards notions of kinship, it is suggested that a framing discussion take place prior to reading the book. In this discussion, the child might be asked about their family, what they think family means, or how they understand the concept of family. This will be easy to alter between cultures. After the book is read, a follow activity might be carried out in which the children are asked to draw and label characters from the book, to draw their family, or to write about the story. Not only will this give the researcher some physical data, but it will give an indication of whether reading the book has in any way influenced or altered the child’s perception of family. Research on creative visual research methods has identified that the artefacts themselves have the power to influence and shape a child’s world view through the course of the research (Gauntlett and Holzworth, 2006). **Limitations and Other Considerations** Reflexivity is a vital part of research. With the design of this book the researcher recognises the following things: The researcher comes from a lived culture in the UK, meaning that by default, the design and development of the book has stemmed from an Anglo perspective. Whilst great efforts have been made to limit the amount of culturally traceable material, it is nevertheless unavoidable that some elements of cultural bias may be present in the book. This may or may not influence the way the book is seen by children. The researcher comes from a background in education, specifically the UK education system. Therefore there are certain biases about how much the target age (5-8) will be able to grasp from the book. There is a certain amount of assumption that children of this age will be able to differentiate between shape, size and colour to the degree necessary to understand this book. This research tool has not yet taken fully into account the myriad of linguistic nuances for differentiating shape, colour and size, and so it is important to entertain the possibility that some children may distinguish things in a different way than the researcher, as a result of fundamental linguistic and cultural differences. Given more time and resources, efforts could be made to modify and develop this. Children in different cultures will be familiar with the concept of a ‘picture book’ to varying degrees. In designing the research tool as a book, the researcher accepts that there may be some participants who will be unfamiliar with the concept of a children’s book. This may influence the results, as some children will be aware of how to ‘narrate’ a story, whilst others will not. The researcher accepts that because of the abstract nature of the book, it is possible that no kinship language will emerge from the interviews. This, the researcher suggests, is interesting in itself because it may demonstrate the prevalence of kinship identification stratified by age, sex, culture, language etc.