An Exhibition at Oxford Highlights the Sensorial Splendor of Books
In 1940, Dorothy Kunhardt published a book that would forever change the way young children read. Pat the Bunny, an interactive book full of activities such as touching the sandpaper of “Daddy’s scratchy face,” playing peekaboo with a piece of cloth, or gazing in a mirror, imbued the act of reading with a new form of sensory engagement. Today, “touch and feel” books for babies and children are almost required reading—their cellophane stuffing produces a satisfying, A.S.M.R.-level crunching sound, while the use of faux rabbit fur or horse hair offers an exhilarating tactile experience. As we age and our reading comprehension sharpens, the books we pick up prioritize a single sense—sight—their stories seemingly locked away in lines of text.