Tuesday, August 24, 1999 Published at 09:59 GMT 10:59 UK
Teletubbies' teaching tonic
The Teletubbies can have an "electrifying" effect, research shows
The characters from the cult children's television show the Teletubbies may seem unlikely classroom aids, but research shows they can help small children develop literacy skills.
Introducing Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa Laa and Po into a classroom environment can have an "electrifying" effect on youngsters, according to an education expert at Sheffield Hallam University.
The findings directly oppose the views of critics of the BBC programme.
The show, where the characters communicate in repetitive, sing-song language, using words such as "eh-oh", have televisions in their stomachs, and live in an underground home looked after by a vacuum cleaner called Noo Noo, has been accused of being inane.
The research shows that it is exactly the simple, repetitive language used by the Teletubbies which helps improve children's reading and writing skills.
Jackie Marsh, of the university's Centre for English in Education, said: "Popular culture can be a valuable stimulus for work in language and literature.
"We've found that children who would not normally be interested in writing fall over themselves with excitement when they are writing about these familiar characters."
Ms Marsh carried out research with a group of teachers in Sheffield nursery and infant schools, using Teletubbies comics.
They found that the comics were suitable for work with young children because of their simple sentence structures, repeated text and rhymes.
"The comics can be used to stimulate a range of reading and writing activities in the classroom, which in this project has included writing recipes for Tubby Custard - an activity the children particularly loved," Ms Marsh said.
Astronomer Dennis Ashton will appear on the programme explaining to young children how to use a telescope to look at the moon.
He was approached to do the piece when he was spotted lecturing at a sleepover for school pupils at the Science Museum in London.