PBS Kids Series Proves Children Can Learn to Read From TV and Like It!

Posted by PBS Publicity on

-- Study Finds Significant Growth in Reading Skills After Viewing BETWEEN THE LIONS --

PASADENA, CA, July 12, 2000 -- A new PBS KIDS series, BETWEEN THE LIONS, has demonstrated that TV can teach kids basic reading skills. Highlights of a University of Kansas study released today at the Television Critics Association semi-annual press tour revealed that kindergarten students who viewed only 8.5 hours of the program over a four-week period significantly improved key reading skills. In addition, children overwhelmingly liked the show as much or better than Pokemon and their other favorite programs.

On a test that measures children's knowledge of word sounds, a skill that is highly predictive of their later ability to read, kindergartners who were tested before and after watching BETWEEN THE LIONS episodes saw their scores rise by 64%-compared to only 25% gains for similar children who did not watch the show. In fact, these kindergartners exceeded the benchmark established for children in the winter of first grade.

"BETWEEN THE LIONS is making a real contribution to children's literacy in America," says John F. Wilson, senior vice president, programming, PBS. "The series represents the best of what PBS KIDS has to offer-educational programming that kids love to watch."

Produced by WGBH Boston and Sirius Thinking, Ltd., BETWEEN THE LIONS is the first television series to offer educationally valid reading instruction, combining the best of phonics and whole language. The program is the centerpiece of a multimedia literacy initiative that includes a Web site (www.pbskids.org/lions), books, videos, parent workshops, teacher guides, and other outreach materials.

According to Brigid Sullivan, vice president, children's programming at WGBH, "We gathered the nation's top education experts and creative talent to develop a television program and Web site that would help kids learn to read in an entertaining way. The University of Kansas study shows that our formula is working."

Research director Deborah L. Linebarger, Ph.D., of the Juniper Gardens Children's Project at the University of Kansas, conducted the research on kindergarten and first grade students in the greater Kansas City region. Children watched 17 episodes of the half-hour program in their classrooms during a 3-4 week period before the program aired.

Teachers were instructed not to discuss the show or change instruction in any way. Researchers sought to determine the appeal of the program and its impact on early reading skills that are highly predictive of reading success. These skills include the ability to match letters with sounds; the awareness that spoken words are made up of sound units; and the understanding that print is read from left to right and from top to bottom.



  • In a standardized reading test, kindergarten children who were tested before and after watching the BETWEEN THE LIONS episodes saw their scores rise by 26%compared to only 5% gains for similar children who did not watch the show.
  • On tests rating proficiency in specific skills, kindergarten children who viewed the show saw their average performance improve by 50%compared to only 13% for similar children who did not view the program.
  • 95% of kindergarten and first-graders liked the show. One in six said it was their favorite show, besting the next most popular show, Pokemon. More than 8 in 10 said they liked it as much or better than their favorite show.

The research found striking improvements for kindergartners who watched the show even with adjustments for children's ability and family characteristics. However, no research can control for all factors that might influence children's growth in reading.

BETWEEN THE LIONS is produced for PBS KIDS by the award-winning team of WGBH Boston and Sirius Thinking, Ltd., two experts in the creative union of educational goals with laugh-out-loud children's television. The BETWEEN THE LIONS production team is: executive producer, Judith Stoia; creative producer, Christopher Cerf; creative director, Michael K. Frith; and head writer, Norman Stiles. The production is overseen by WGBH's vice president of children's programming, Brigid Sullivan.

Set in an imaginary library run by a family of lions, BETWEEN THE LIONS offers an innovative mix of puppetry, animation, live action, and music. It debuted to widespread critical acclaim on PBS KIDS in April 2000 and has been nominated as Best Children's TV Program by the Television Critics Association. It was funded in large part with a Ready to Learn grant from the U.S. Department of Education through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Additional major funders for Between the Lions include the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Park Foundation, The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, the Charles H. Revson Foundation, and the Institute for Civil Society. National corporate sponsorship is provided by Cheerios and eToys. Organizational partners include: American Association of School Librarians; American Library Association; Association for Library Service to Children; Center for the Book, the Library of Congress; Family Education Network; First Book; Friends of Libraries, USA; Girl Scouts of the USA; International Reading Association; National Association of Elementary School Principals; National Association of State Title I Directors; National Coalition for Literacy; National Center for Family Literacy; National Center for Learning Disabilities; and Reading Is Fundamental, Inc.

WGBH Boston is America's preeminent public broadcasting producer. More than one-third of PBS's prime-time lineup and companion Web content is produced by WGBH, which is also a pioneer in educational multi-media and access technologies for people with disabilities. Sirius Thinking, Ltd, a New York-based multi-media education and entertainment company, was founded by top talent from Sesame Street, Electric Company, Nickelodeon, and Jim Henson Productions.

PBS, headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, is a private, nonprofit media enterprise owned and operated by the nation's 348 public television stations. A trusted community resource, PBS uses the power of noncommercial television, the Internet and other media to enrich the lives of all Americans through quality programs and education services that inform, inspire and delight. Available to 99 percent of American homes with televisions and to an increasing number of digital multimedia households, PBS serves nearly 100 million people each week. More information about PBS is available at www.pbs.org.



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