Today is brought to you by the letter…L

Hello once again!

There was a technical hitch yesterday when I was supposed to do the letter L, (Internet not doing its business, plus another bout of ‘The Virus’ in the household – 7 year old’s turn again!), so here we are today with it instead. Rather aptly, as little one is off school it is actually a school’s programme from my youth I’m looking at today.

Today, L is for…

Look and Read


Well at least I thought it was for Look and Read until I realised that the programme I was remembering was Words and Pictures, but as Words and Pictures was a direct spin off from Look and Read and had some similar characters and format, you can’t blame me for getting confused!

So what was the difference? Well, apart from the fact Words and Pictures had a cool theme tune and Look and Read had no theme tune to speak of  really, Look and Read was, as I say, a school’s programme from the BBC which began airing in the 1960s and continued right up until 2004. The idea was to present stories in a fictional style drama format with real life actors to help with reading skills and teach grammar skills alongside in a separate section of the programme. I thought this was done by a ‘see-through’ character called Charlie, but it seems I remember him from Words and Pictures  as he didn’t feature  Look and Read as I thoughtand this is where my confusion arose. Look and Read did have a character, but he was called Wordy and he was a large orange type ball thing with letters all over him, not an animated picture character. To my mind he was a little creepy, whereas Charlie was a little bit like an old Grandad what with his bow tie and slight comb-over!

Charlie (on the left!)

But the main difference between the two programmes was that Look and Read was aimed at slightly older primary school children (and looking back and remembering some of the down right sinister looking serials – I’m not surprised – Remember Badger Girl, Through the Dragon’s Eye, Dark Towers or The Boy from Space – creepy! )

An image from The Boy From Space (1980) in Look and Read – See? Totally creepy! 

whereas, Words and Pictures was developed for children who had just started out at primary school and had animated stories instead of real actors dramatising the story and Charlie of course! The part I always loved the most and remember most vividly about Words and Pictures though (and which wasn’t on Look and Read) was the part with the ‘magic pencil’ whereby it formed letters on a black background on the screen for you, teaching you how to write.

Behold the magic pencil!! 

I also really loved the Charlie character, though I only have vague recollections of him, as I only have vague recollections of Look and Read, because it was the type of programme you either only watched if the teachers put it on in school or if you were off school lying on the sofa ill and your mum allowed you to watch it so you didn’t ‘miss out’ on too much education! I’m guessing I remember Words and Pictures more because I might have watched that before starting school (I was nearly 5 before I started, after all – not like these days when kids are shoved into school nursery at aged 3.)

Look and Read I actually came into contact with later on in life, in my early years of teaching in actual fact. The Internet hadn’t quite reached schools in 1998/1999 (forever behind) and even DVDs weren’t that widely used. I remember using the Spywatch Look and Read materials (made in 1996) with my year 3 classes in the first few years of teaching, complete on clunky, chunky VHS video. It was still normal for us to wheel out the brown, wooden TV (yes really -as late as the year 2000 I’m talking about here!) and get the video cassette out (with teaching materials) and it was one of the ways I taught simple spelling patterns and phonics. The oa episode sticks in my mind, with a goat eating a coat on a boat with auntie Joan etc….etc…! Spywatch was the serial bit and was set during the Second World War following the story of some evacuees living on a farm. It was an excellent story, all about a spiv who the kids think is a German spy, and then a German plane crashes and they help the pilot. The spiv’s ‘girlfriend’ was played by Lesley Joseph! And the whole story was a flashback told through the eyes of Keith Baron – Norman Starkey- who is remembering his time as an evacuee. The ‘technology’ he uses in the library to do his research is hilarious, but for 1996, probably very of its time. Anyway, I didn’t find Spywatch sinister (as the earlier serials from the 70s and 80s look) but perhaps all those 7 and 8 year-olds I taught between 1998 and 2001 will now have their own memories of the weird Look and Read programme their teacher inflicted on them! Who knows?

The strange teacher character who used to appear on Keith Baron’s chunky 90’s computer screen to spell out the phonemes on the Spywatch saga of Look and Read

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