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Words and Pictures (TV programme) facts for kids

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Words and Pictures
Genre Children's television
Presented by Gabriel Woolf (1970)
Tony Robinson (1972-73)
Henry Woolf (1975-78)
Vicky Ireland (1982-89)
Stuart Bradley (1990)
Sophie Aldred (1992-93, 1996-2001)
Michael Hobbs (1993-94)
Paul Ewing (1999-2001, spin-off)
Pui Fan Lee and William Vanderpuye (2006-2007, revival series)
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
Running time 15 minutes
Production company(s) BBC Schools
SFTV (1990s)
Original network BBC One, BBC Two, CBeebies
Picture format 4:3
Original release 17 October 1970 (1970-10-17) – 28 October 2006 (2006-10-28)

Words and Pictures is a British children's literacy television programme which aired as part of BBC Schools, starting in 1970.


The series began in 1970 as a spin-off from the BBC schools programme, Look and Read, which was already providing the same type of practice and encouragement for older children. The first series was presented by Gabriel Woolf and set in an attic full of toys, who have adventures related to phonics. Two episodes aired each week, one ("Programme A") at the start and the other ("Programme B") at the end. This was meant to cater for younger children and allowed teachers to do some follow-up work in the classroom in between. A total of 16 episodes aired.

The second series started airing weekly in 1972, for 20 episodes. The format and presenter changed, the second series being about a young man called Sam Samson (played by Tony Robinson) who daydreams about an island inhabited by "Boffs". The series was later repeated as Sam on Boffs' Island.

In 1975 Henry Woolf took over as presenter, with the setting changing to a bookshop. He was assisted by an Aniform puppet character named Charlie and a "magic pencil", who would describe and show how to form the letter using a rhyme with each letter. This series contained a story in each episode along with songs and rhymes.


A fourth series began airing in 1982, this time presented by Vicky Ireland. The format was unchanged, and the setting changed to a library. Ireland presented the show until 1989, and presented 84 episodes. She was the series' longest-serving presenter.

An episode of this series is shown in a scene of the post-apocalyptic drama Threads; ten years after a nuclear war, characters are watching the program (via a still-functioning VCR) in a makeshift school.

1990s onwards

In 1990 the programme was presented by Stuart Bradley and a cat puppet called Nutmeg, who could operate a word processor. This series also contained footage from the outside world.

In 1992 the presenter was Sophie Aldred, who continued to present studio-based programmes. The BBC also produced two VHS tapes, again presented by Sophie. Time For A Story featured some of the stories from the 1992/93 series and Alphabet Fun Time featured the phonic animations animated by Alan Rogers and Peter Lang with Magic Pencil.

For the following series in 1993, Michael Hobbs presented the show, again based in the studio and coloured letters were written by the Magic Pencil for the first time to join the white ones. Aldred was brought back for the next series due to her popularity. Aldred continued to present the show until its run in 2001, and also presented two specials, Phonics Special and Phonics Year 2, in 1999 and 2001. The last series was set in a lighthouse, and Aldred is visited by Sid the Seagull, Salty Sam the Sailor and Colin the Clam as well as actors who read out story books.

A spin-off series, aimed at younger children started airing in 1999, titled Words and Pictures Plus. This series was presented by Paul Ewing. The programmes proceeded at a slower pace, of one phonic per episode. This series was also produced on both VHS and DVD on the BBC Schools website. In 2001, a new collection of four Magic Pencil programmes began airing, which were edited from the Alphabet Fun Time VHS tape released in 1994, again presented by Sophie Aldred.

A remake series of Words and Pictures with the subtitle "Fun with Phonics" was launched on CBeebies in 2006. This series was made up of short, four minute episodes, each concentrating on one particular letter sound. There were two presenters, Pui Fan Lee and William Vanderpuye, each presenting 22 of the 44 episodes in the series. Re-edited versions of the episodes, with some extra material, are available to buy on DVD in shops. These episodes were re-edited for school use, combining two episodes together.


  • Gabriel Woolf (16 episodes, 1970)
  • Tony Robinson (20 episodes, 1972–73)
  • Henry Woolf (56 episodes, 1975–78)
  • Vicky Ireland (84 episodes, 1982–89)
  • Stuart Bradley (28 episodes, 1990)
  • Sophie Aldred (80 episodes, 1992–1993; 1996–2001)
  • Michael Hobbs (28 episodes, 1993–94)
  • Paul Ewing (28 episodes, 1999–2001)
  • Pui Fan Lee (22 episodes, 2006–07)
  • William Vanderpuye (22 episodes, 2006–07)
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