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Why BRI is Effective in Teaching Children with SEN and Complex Difficulties

Children reading Piper Books

"The best beginner books I Have ever seen"

Learning to read is a skill that most SEN children can acquire. With BRI, it boils down to meticulously designed instruction, time for mastery, and engagement with all aspects of storytelling. The carefully structured books build confidence right from the start.

It’s a sobering thought that most struggling readers need an additional 10-15 minutes daily of rigorous one-to-one practice in order to ‘crack the code’ yet many don’t receive this. The consequence is that, even in the early days of learning to read, children’s confidence can take a nose-dive. Seeing other children ‘take off’ effortlessly, they quickly marshal their defence mechanisms: ‘I’m rubbish’, ‘I can’t do it’… and, saddest of all, are prone to despair and subsequent switching off. And this feeling of worthlessness often results in low- level disruption or, in some cases, in seriously disruptive behaviour. This must affect the learning of every single student. It takes little imagination to empathise with these children, grappling with every element of learning to read, or even with one element, or to understand the enormity of the consequences of children who can’t read. Why aren’t we supporting them enough?

It took years to develop and trial the BRI books so that the complexities of the Alphabetic Code could be addressed in a straightforward and cost-effective way by teacher, teaching assistant or parent. The following elements – powerfully emphasised by leading cognitive psychologists – were woven into stories designed to contain cumulative decoding practice:

1. Instruction and practice takes place in stories inhabited by appealing and mischievous animal characters, rather than through instruction combining stories with ‘reading’ worksheets.

2. Letter choice with early BRI books make the task of blending as easy as possible, e.g. through frequent use of the sibilant sound /s/ ‘Sam’ ‘s ee’ ’sit’ ‘Sid’ ‘sat’ ‘sun’ ‘its’. This attention to detail facilitates children’s ability to ‘hear’ each sound during the blending process and also makes ‘guessing’ fiendishly difficult.

3. Overlearning/spaced out practice. Words are repeated at least five times in the book in which they are introduced and a number of times in subsequent books.

4. Interleaving. New words are frequently interleaved with words composed of ‘taught’ letter/sound combinations from earlier books i.e.: see, meet, feet, weed, tree, keep.

Spacing out practice and interweaving it with other learning is more effective than mass practice methods.

5. Re-reading BRI stories. This crucial practice results in automatic decoding (fluency). It also enables a teacher or parent to model expression, explore meaning, and extend vocabulary.

6. Story questions at the end of each book encourage discussion and are particularly helpful for children with Speech, Language and Communication (SLC) problems.


  • A Systematic Synthetic Phonics reading programme – used by parents, and in schools, in conjunction with mainstream phonics programmes

  • Blending made easy

  • Rigorous attention to decoding through-the-word

  • No guessing – ever

  • Instant error correction

  • Fluency practice through rereading of the stories

  • Modelling expression through engagement with the narrative

  • Minimal, clear, consistent instruction

  • Flexibility to proceed at ‘child’ pace

  • Transparency of progress


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