Our trustee Mark Harrington, a special needs teacher, discusses the creation of the Breck Books Project a series of storybooks about online grooming aimed at SEN students
The first time I heard the story of Breck, I couldn’t quite believe what I was being told. The element of the unbelievable is where the inspiration for ‘Breck and the Online Troll’ came from.
‘Breck and the Online Troll’ has been designed for special needs students with the mindset of eight-plus. The language used within the story is simple enough for emerging and independent readers. I wanted to start to get some of the emotions that are embedded within the story of Breck’s grooming to support and develop emotional understanding.
The most important thing with this book is that I did not want the reader to feel like they were reading a book about real-life online safety at first. The word ‘troll’ had bounced around in my head from the beginning of creating this story. From this idea, I created a story of two halves: the first part, a story of knights, trolls and adventure, which then in the second half twists to real life, where images and the story show parallels to the first half.
While writing the story I had certain images in my head of what the pages could look like. When I had my first meeting with the illustrator, Eve Yarnton, she had the same vision and has delivered a fantasyland, colliding with the real world and the truth. Her graphic, comic-book style is eye-catching, powerful and emotional. The images alone are accessible enough for students to understand the story.
The books are being printed in A4, enabling those students with physical difficulties to hold them, too. The images, twisted plot of truth and lies, along with the stunning graphic-style pictures make them intriguing and fun for both autistic students and also those with short attention spans. The book comes with a six-week scheme of work and worksheets to help support delivery of the story and topic. The aim of the book is that it could be acted out by students so that they can share the story of Breck and issues of online safety with other students.
I hope this reinvention of Breck’s story will help teachers and family discuss the topic of online safety in a different way.
If you would like to see more about the books and projects Mark is working on, follow him on Instagram and Facebook @harrington_projects. To see more artwork by Eve Yarnton, follow her on Instagram @evey.ya