This Creepy TV Villain Taught 1980s British Schoolkids How to Read

Illiteracy might have saved on the therapy bills?

Charn from Through the Dragon's Eye (BBC Look and Read)
Photo: CBBC

If you attended a UK primary school in the last 50 years, then the sight of two white, animated eyes on a black screen turning into the heart of the word ‘Look’ is likely to trigger all sorts of pink custard and plimsoll memories. Those moving eyes, shown on the big TV wheeled by teachers into classrooms every so often, signalled the start of an adventure.

The eyes were part of the Look and Read logo, a schools TV series designed to teach literacy, apostrophe usage and the joys of magic, magic E. The first Look And Read programme was 1967’s Bob And Carol Look For Treasure, a 10-part story about two kids’ clue-filled search for swag and eventual capture of a thief. The most recent, Shadow Play – about a young boy who discovers the diary of a Victorian girl – aired in 2004. In between were the likes of Geordie Racer, the tale of plucky young Spuggy thwarting a pigeon-racing crime syndicate, and Badger Girl, about a group of kids who stop a pony-rustling gang.

Mixed in with Look And Read’s Famous Five-ish earthbound adventures – most of which concerned something close to children’s hearts: the theft of cattle and wild bird eggs – were a handful of escapist tales. From alien visitations to comic-book characters coming to life and magical portals to other worlds… Look And Read gave young fantasy and sci-fi fans the chance to watch some pretty exciting television in lesson time.

The theme song to one series in particular also gave some of us the badly sung soundtrack to any number of walks home from the pub. Join in now if you know the words, “North or South, East or West, the quest…”.


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