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TV and Radio

Look and Read: A Victorian Mystery

BBC2, Monday, February 21, 10.30am-12.10pm

Ben, on half-term holiday with his new step-family, finds he can see back into the past through the viewfinder of his camcorder. This five-parter for 7 to 11-year-olds uses various strategies to develop reading skills and teach about 19th-century life, through an engaging ghost story about a deserted mansion, a woman in blue and a girl who needs supernatural help across the decades.

BBC Primary History: Children in Victorian Britain BBC2, Friday, February 25, 10.30-11.30am

We're still with the Victorians with these three programmes encouraging 7 to 11-year-olds to find out about the lives of their 19th century counterparts by using a variety of source material: pictures, documents and film from sites such as a cotton factory and a Ragged school. We start with children at work and the legislation that eventually limited the hours and the conditions under which they could be employed. The second programme centres on the 1870 Education Act, showing what schooling was available to Victorian boys and girls before it and what came after; and the series ends with "Children at Play". The website ( has extra information for both pupils and teachers, plus games and worksheets (imagine what Bert, the chimneysweep, feels about going to school). The whole exercise is probably designed to make the children of today feel more content with their lot.

Just Prose BBC Radio 4, Thursdays, February 24, 3.50-4.05am

This is the Year 4 block in this enjoyable radio series for 7 to 11-year-olds, in which writers like Anne Fine and Phillip Pullman contribute to a varied anthology of prose extracts with background sounds and music, designed to stimulate pupils' reading and writing. You can sample the material on the BBC website

What the Ancients Did for Us BBC2, Tuesdays, February 22-April 12 (time tbc).

Adam Hart-Davis sets out on a new journey of discovery, sometimes in places where he can't take his trademark bike. He started last week with our debt to Islam and carries on today with the inventive genius of the Chinese.

Future weeks take him to Mesopotamia, Ancient Greece and pre-Roman Britain.

This is a series with lots to recommend it. Hart-Davis is a sympathetic presenter who likes to demonstrate the inventions in full-scale models, with spouting water and explosive bangs - and he is touchingly pleased when the experiment succeeds.

Europe: A Natural History BBC4, Tuesdays, from February 22, 9-9.50pm

Sean Pertwee goes one better than Alan Titchmarsh, to tell the story of the entire European continent. The BBC is a bit too pleased with the special effects, but overall the series has a good deal to tell and as it proceeds should provide an increasing amount of useful material.

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