Let's Read with Basil Brush

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started23rd Sep 1982
ended28th Jun 1984
last rpt24th Jun 1985
3 school years
duration10 mins
subject 📚EnglishReading
age rangeAge 5-7
languageenIn English
ITV early readingHierarchyPrevious.gifPrevious series: Reading with Lenny Next series: Time for a Story HierarchyNext.gif

Let's Read with Basil Brush is an ITV schools TV series from the 1980s, covering Reading for primary school pupils.

Mr Howard & Basil

The raucous puppet Basil Brush aims to encourage children to learn to read. Each week master Brush's human friend, mister Howard, reads a story about Pepper the puppy. Basil watches Mr Howard reading, making comments and cracking jokes throughout. Afterwards they read through a simple children's version of the story again, and then play a game that could be continued in the classroom.

Each week the game involves putting up three cards, each describing part of an object or creature such as "a head", "a body" and "legs". When the cards are turned over a picture is revealed, which matches the words on the cards but is not the picture that Mr Howard was expecting.

While the story is being read the illustrations are shown in full-screen and the pages are physically turned over to make it clear that they are reading from a book.

The series was a replacement for Reading with Lenny, which also featured a puppet learning to read with his human friend, but this new series was judged to be much less successful than its predecessor. The Independent Broadcasting Authority reported that Let's Read with Basil Brush "disappointed a substantial number of infant teachers who had followed (Reading with Lenny)"[1]. However a core purpose of this series was simply to enthuse and motivate children into wanting to learn to read through Basil's "exuberant enthusiasm"[2] and not directly to teach reading.

In the end Let's Read with Basil Brush had a much shorter lifespan than any of the other early reading series shown by ITV during the 1970s, 80s and 90s. After just three years on air it was replaced by Time for a Story with Bill Oddie.


# Title Broadcast
1. Pepper and the Fly 23 Sep 1982
2. Pepper's Donkey Ride 30 Sep 1982
3. Pepper's New Wellies 7 Oct 1982
4. Pepper's Hiding Game 14 Oct 1982
5. Pepper's Aeroplane 21 Oct 1982
6. Pepper's Surprise 4 Nov 1982
7. Pepper and the Clockwork Mouse 11 Nov 1982
8. Pepper's Swing 18 Nov 1982
9. Pepper Goes Fishing 25 Nov 1982
10. Pepper Goes to the Farm 2 Dec 1982
11. Pepper and the Pirates 13 Jan 1983
12. Pepper and the Chips 20 Jan 1983
13. Pepper's Roller Skates 27 Jan 1983
14. Pepper Has Hiccups 3 Feb 1983
15. Pepper's Crab 10 Feb 1983
16. Pepper's Balloon 17 Feb 1983
17. Pepper the Magician 3 Mar 1983
18. Pepper and the Crisps 10 Mar 1983
19. Pepper and the Jack-in-a-Box 17 Mar 1983
20. Pepper's Picture Book 24 Mar 1983
21. Pepper at the Circus 30 Apr 1984
22. Pepper's Letter 10 May 1984
23. Pepper Goes to the Zoo 17 May 1984
24. Pepper's Wishing Stone 24 May 1984
25. Pepper and the Giant 7 Jun 1984
26. Pepper Goes Shopping 14 Jun 1984
27. Pepper and the Budgie 21 Jun 1984
28. Pepper the Spaceman 28 Jun 1984


Script Barry Hill
Additional material Ivan Owen

Howard Williams

Pepper stories by Barry Hill

Ursula Daniels
Diane Wilmer
Sybil Marshall
Lesley Cryer
John Coop

Basil Brush Song words Barry Hill
Basil Brush Song music Derek Hilton
Production assistants Gillian Cresswell
Myra Price
Secretary Margaret Syratt
Adviser Helen Arnold
Illustrations Pete Beard
Graphics Ed Shirt
Design Taff Batley
Director Dave Warwick
Producer John Coop

Theme Music

Basil sang the opening theme tune himself:

Theme Song

I love to go to school you know and play with all me mates,
I get a smashing feeling as I walk in through the gates.
I go in to the classroom and there's a sudden hush,
Then all the kids jump up and shout "let's read with Basil Brush!"
Let's Read with Basil Brush!

There was also a separate ending theme song.


Pupils' books

Selection of pupils' book covers
Let's Read with Basil Brush books 1.jpg
Let's Read with Basil Brush books 2.jpg

All of the Pepper stories were published as children's reading books, with the full text of the story on the left pages and illustrations with simple captions for children to read on the right.

The autumn term stories had yellow covers, the spring term had blue, and the summer term had green, but the stories were all at basically the same level of reading difficulty. (The big mock storybook that Mr Howard read from in the TV programmes was always yellow.)

The reading books originally cost £2.75 for a set of books covering one entire school term. The sets were also made available for parents to buy and use at home.

Teacher's notes

Teacher's notes

A booklet of teacher's notes written by the series adviser Helen Arnold. There was one booklet to cover each complete school year, with background to the series, the simple picture-caption version of all the Pepper stories, plus suggestions for follow-up work and lists of other books that could be used by teachers and pupils.

The lists of reading books included the pupils' books published to accompany the Granada's previous reading series, It's Fun to Read and Reading with Lenny, as well as Reading with Lenny writer Terry Hall's previous Laugh and Learn books.

The teacher's notes booklet originally cost 95p for the 1982-3 school year.


Let's Read with Basil Brush poster.jpg

A poster for the classroom wall displaying cover illustrations from the autumn and spring term Pepper books.


Year Term Day Time Day Time Channel Details
1982-83 Autumn 1982 & Spring 1983 Thu 10:21 Fri 11:00 ITV
1983-84 Autumn 1983, Spring & Summer 1984 Mon 09:47 Thu 11:08 ITV

Due to the May Day holiday most summer term programmes were shown first on Thursdays and repeated on Mondays

1984-85 Autumn 1984, Spring & Summer 1985 Mon 09:47 Tue 11:02 ITV

Due to the May Day holiday most summer term programmes were shown first on Tuesdays and repeated on Mondays

Let's Read with Basil Brush follows shortly.jpg


Sources & References

  • Arnold, Helen Let's Read... with Basil Brush teacher's notes 1982-83. Manchester: Granada Television
  • Arnold, Helen Let's Read... with Basil Brush teacher's notes 1983-84. Manchester: Granada Television
  • Arnold, Helen Let's Read... with Basil Brush teacher's notes 1983-85. Manchester: Granada Television
  • Granada (1982) Independent Television for Schools & Colleges Annual Programme 1982-83 Age 4-18. Manchester: Granada Television
  • IBA (1983) Independent Broadcasting Authority Annual Report and Accounts 1982-83. London: IBA

With thanks to Simon Collins

  1. IBA (1983) p.36 states "Let's Read...with Basil Brush (Granada) introduced two terms of weekly programmes intending to illuminate the strategies young children need as they begin to learn to read. The new series fell short of the IBA advisers' hopes for the proposal they had discussed, and disappointed a substantial number of infant teachers who had followed an earlier reading series. The Educational Advisory Council took a liberal view of the concerns expressed by IBA staff, believing that the exuberant enthusiasm of the popular puppet Basil Brush might yet find an alternative audience to that intended. The producing company was asked to explore this possibility closely by arranging for some impartial research to be undertaken." I don't know precisely what the source of teachers' disappointment was.
  2. Granada (1982) p.5 explains that "the series is not designed to teach specific reading skills, although it is hoped that the activities will directly reinforce the teacher's own reading programme. Above all, it is hoped that Basil's exuberent enthusiasm will motivate children towards wanting to read."


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