Early children’s television programmes were full of spoken received English, (previously known as the King’s or Queen’s English) which the majority of folk did not speak. Thinking back, the Listen With Mother radio slot in the weekday afternoons was equally as plummy and posh. While children probably accepted there was a bunch of chatterers who did not speak not like them, their families and their friends, the important thing was, the programmes were theirs, they belonged to them. It introduced young minds and ears to listening to stories and mini serialisations. The plum speech didn’t matter, anyway, you didn’t copy their speech patterns, you just learned to understand it….like learning another language!

Television was a similar story, but I think changes in interaction and speech patterns altered marginally quicker than they did with the children’s radio programme slot. As we did not have a television in our house, I only saw children’s programmes very occasionally. There was, I remember, the odd stripey-dressed puppet Andy Pandy and The Flowerpot Men in monochrome, jumping around inside a small square bottle-bottomed window. I have no idea what he or they did.

When a parent, I watched the kiddies programmes with the kids: high pitched voiced Rosie and Jim on their brightly painted canal barge houseboat; a programme with Tony Robinson,(now of the archaeological digs T.V Time Team)who sat at a computer, then he would summoning the animation ‘Wordeee’ to demonstrate how to say, use and write the magic ‘e’ in a particular way, each week. I watched the whole series of Sesame Street, it was brilliant for teaching young eyes ears and minds all sorts of useful things, like sign recognition; snippets of various genres of music, titbits about nature and loads of activities. The little parable type stories, beautifully enacted by colourfully dressed animal characters guided by adults from many ethnic backgrounds, introduced children to the real multi-cultural world.



  1. Ah, the late great Sesame Street – bring it back!

    Did your parents encourage you to ‘talk nicely’ and indicate that local accents were ‘rough’ – or was it not noted in your house?

  2. First: I totally agree with you about Sesame Street. I viewed it as an adult and was totally impressed with its clever diversity and entertainments. We made a point of making ourselves available to watch it…other children’s programmes did not impress themselves as much. Should we start a campaign?

    So long as we could make ourselves clearly understood, there was no pressure to be what we were not. If you did communicate in any way differently from your peers at school, they would let you know it. Dropping your aspirations when at school, was a regular feature of speech amongst the kids where we lived. To be in with the in-crowd, you did not want to stand out like a sore thumb by speaking like BBC announcers or the Queen. It was such a divisive mode of speech wasn’t it.

  3. It’s all part of what I was noting on my blog – peer pressure that starts very early. When I was 7 we moved to a small island where a form of pidgin was spoken – we picked it up very rapidly, which is what most kids do in a different environment. There’s something very deep within us – nature, nurture, personality, communality, a mixture of it all? – that makes us afraid to be thought different because of the unkindness that follows. I still haven’t found a psychological explanation as to why children learn that so early – not only that they have to endure it, but also the power of handing it out!

  4. Pidgin is form of language that like any other language not only enables you to locally communicate but indicates where you are from. A foreign child here, with no language would soon have to learn basic communication in school, if there was not a large group of the same background, or be totally side-lined.

    Children are naturally possessive, all sorts of basic behaviours are tied up in that level of egocentricity. All kinds of power games are innate and others are learned early on. Learning a broader repertoire of social skills and behaviours, takes its course with developmental growth and time.

  5. Ah yes, Blue Peter, that became a regular feature of children’s viewing in my household too. Sprog won a winners badge once. When it broke, I wrote to ask if it could be replaced. Yes it could, and it was, but with an ordinary BP badge not a winner’s one. Not having watched monochrome TV, as we didn’t have a T.V, I have never been a keen T.V. watcher. I don’t remember many of the programmes other than those transmitted in colour.

  6. That’s as it should be – although some children never learn, and again I wonder if it’s nature or nurture. Watching Gareth Malone with his class of boys last night on TV made me wonder again.

  7. You’ve been watching that programme too. I was discussing it today with someone who was fixed on half the message, or so it seemed. Perhaps the understanding was only partial. Or maybe I was taking much more out of the range of dynamics.

    There are always combinations. Last week when I watched the programme for the first time, two things struck me. Here was a natural and good teacher who could motivate, if allowed to by a variety of other adults. There is a lot to take from Gareth’s input, but impossible to totally replicate, mainly because of resource implications and the in-house support it would require.

    The second thing, which upset him, me and I hope a lot of other people, was hearing a child express his lack of self-esteem, a factor which was blocking his progress. Why had that not been picked up before, and if it had, why evidently, had it been left to fester?

    There were many elements I took from the final programme, but I didn’t pick up from it that some children never learn. Even children with severe learning disabilities can learn some things and can use what they learn.

  8. Yes, it was fascinating, (particularly with so many teachers in our family and a brother who specialises in how the brain learns!) It raised a whole range of issues. I was very struck by how articulate the children were to camera, and also, about the paralysing fear of failure.

  9. Children, like adults, fear failure. If the school experience of the adult has been constant failure, the negativity of that stays, for the rest of time. There are many outcomes, other compensatory, acceptable achievements, and alas, those who do not truly recover from such experiences. I would guess we all have memories of class ridicule, embarrassments of all kinds, some created by the teachers who were meant to motivate us.

  10. Oh yes, they are stuck firmly in my memory – but Hub, on the other hand, remembers no experiences like this at all, which makes me wonder again about how much of this is personality-driven. My mother had a single year when she was small, which she spent at a local primary school where she and her brother and sister were teased. Although she was then sent to a convent school which she adored and where she did very well, she claimed never to have got over being the butt of unkindness in that year, and to the end of her days was immensely insecure.

    I tend to think that this isn’t necessary – we can tackle these things if we wish, and do not have to be bound by them.

  11. A well spoken language is even necessary. It is always easier to learn the familiar language in more…
    My two younger sons write without fault and in an excellent French with a lot of spirit and eloquence. I am hardly satisfied…

    To lower the level of learning is a beautiful bullshit!

    In my youth, the broadcast programs, spread very intelligent and well-balanced courses of study… It is now ended…


  12. Some people have the knack of submersing uncomfortable memories and emotions deep into the unconscious. Very often, as you know, the effects surface. Some people sail along oblivious to what is going on around them.

    Tackling things is possible with some. There are areas of grey.

  13. Je pense j’ai compris celui que tu dit, mais il ya petite chose sur quoi je suis un peu confusee.

    “I am hardly satisfied”…… ce veut dire que tu n’as pas le satisfaction:

    “…learn the familiar in more…” ?

    I should like to understand everything, can you assist please?

    Thank you for your comment; it is interesting to have other national perspectives. 🙂

  14. I speak a very bad English…

    Je suis très satisfait de mes fils

    “It is always easier to learn the familiar language in more…” : il est toujours facile d’apprendre le langage populaire (en plus du beau langage), plus tard…

  15. Non mon ami, tu est tres gentille de faire l’echange des langues avec moi. T’ecrit beacuoup mieux que moi avec ton langue.

    Maintenant, je compris toutes.

    Les programme de quoi je mentionner, etaient pour les tres petits enfants, jus’qua 5 ou 6 ans. Apres quelles ages est une autre histoire. Celui de la debut en la TV je n’ai rien comprehension, par-ce-que, nous n’avons pas une TV chez nous, seulement la radio. Tous les annonceurs parlee avec un Anglaise, etranglee. Mais, nos petits eu compris. Chez nous, nous avons parlee comme la notre abitude.

    Plus tarde il a venu la TV, mais pas chez nous. Quand je viens adulte et une mere, j’ai vu des programmes pour le petits enfants avec ma famille. Nous avons deux favourites, Sesame Street, ( formidable ) et Wordee, une programme que bien demontree l’utilisation de la lettre ‘e’, et aussie l’ecriture du ‘e’. Wordee, etais une programme faite aussie pour l’ecole.

    There were other programmes which were quite sweet and pleasant to see and hear, for very young children. Videos produced were excellent too. Sadly, the radio stopped the every day broadcasting for children, a very silly decision. Now the BBC have to try to win back audience numbers.


  16. You have reminded me, I think I saw Toy Town, or maybe I am confusing it with the Noddy books I read early on. I have a vague recollection of Larry The Lamb, I have no idea what he ba’ad for.


  17. The programmes I watched for the pre-school years, with the kids, were sweet and colourful, Rosie and Jim for example, where the concept of living in a boat and sailing around the country, was introduced. Or the programmes were informative, lively and clever, like Sesame Street, that was a very regular watching appointment. And last, but not least, was the one schools programme we made a point of watching every week with Wordee. No reason not to, it related to sounds around us and more information could be obtained and absorbed.

    I can’t say much about the older kids programmes, I did not watch them as regularly.

  18. En trouve The Open University sur le tele. Ce ci son les programmes educatif pour les grandes enfants…nous! Vraiement, ils sont tres intrressant.

    Durante les vacances de l’ecoles, des fois, il ya quelque chose pour des enfants, mais eu plus grandes, plus de 7 ans. Peut-etre un histoire classique, raccontree par un acteur ou actrice. Il est depuis 4 ans, le BBC as terminee une excellente programme, avec variete et avec un serialisation, d’une drama, chaque Dimanche soir autour de 19.00h. Idiots!

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