Our trustee Mark Harrington, a special needs teacher, discusses the creation of his Breck Books Project, a series of storybooks about online grooming aimed at SEN students
How to make the Breck Bednar story accessible to children with a mindset as young as four? This was one of the major hurdles that needed to be tackled when I began ‘This is Breck’, the first of three Special Educational Needs books for the Breck Foundation.
From my own teaching of special needs students, I have seen how some of the most vulnerable have been manipulated by people on the internet. It was vital that this story was clear and to the point about Breck and the effects of online grooming. This version of the Breck story deals less with the emotions of the Breck story and more with the literal event, making it ideal for autistic children.
The sentence structure in the book is short and simple, making it accessible for early readers. The book is also being printed in A4 size, making it easier for students with physical difficulties to hold.
When it came to the illustrations for the book, I took inspiration from the English author and illustrator Shirley Hughes. I wanted the images to be as literal as possible with very little abstract within the pictures. The images needed to be able to tell the story on their own without the use of the words.
When I was introduced to the illustrator Sydney Johnson, it was clear she was a perfect match. Her beautiful watercolour artwork brought the story to life in a simple, yet effective way. She used colours to convey some of the feelings behind the images, which would help support the understanding of what was happening in the story.
The book includes a six-week scheme of work and worksheets, which are designed to support and consolidate the learning from the Breck story. The scheme of work is designed in way that children can try and act out what is being said, and this can then lead to the students teaching other children about the Breck story and issues surrounding online safety.
I hope that this book will give some of the most vulnerable in society an understanding of some of the issues around online safety.
If you would like to see more of the projects I am working on please go to @harington_projects on Instagram and Facebook. If you would like to see more of Sydney Johnson’s work please look on Instagram @syd.c.j.