Statement of Pat Mitchell, PBS President and CEO

Posted by PBS Publicity on

This is a very exciting day for PBS to be at the White House and take part in the President's initiative to highlight efforts to improve early childhood education and literacy.

PBS and its local stations are committed to helping the nation meet its top education goals. We offer significant and comprehensive on-air, online, and off-air services providing training and curricula for America’s teachers; literacy and job skills for America’s workers; and higher education for all, anytime, any place.

Together, PBS and its local stations are America’s largest educational institution.

But perhaps no mission matters more than our commitment to early childhood education. Public broadcasters across the country enthusiastically endorse President Bush’s goal that every child should arrive at school ready to learn, and that every child should learn to read.

Public broadcasters also stand with Mrs. Bush in her mission to uplift every American child through the priceless gift of reading. PBS is proud that Mrs. Bush will serve as the Honorary Chairperson for the PBS Designated Reader Campaign, which will help millions of children become better readers by inspiring adults to read to them daily. I can think of no better voice to call on parents, grandparents, teachers, librarians, childcare providers, neighbors, retirees, students, and others to change a life by reading to a child. We are very grateful to Mrs. Bush for her gracious support.

We also support the Administration’s comprehensive approach to early learning by enlisting parents, child care providers, and teachers to ensure that no child is left behind. Through our partnership with the U.S. Department of Education, called PBS Ready To Learn, public broadcasters deliver integrated, early education services at low cost to millions of American families.

Our strengths put public broadcasting in a unique position to make a difference.

  • Commitment: Education is at the core of public broadcasting’s mission.
  • Expertise: PBS unites the nation’s top experts in early education with television’s most creative minds, continually breaking new ground with powerfully effective educational television.
  • Access: PBS helps to "level the playing field" by using television as a tool to beam free educational programming into every home, childcare center, and classroom with access to a television.
  • Technology: PBS uses our award-winning Web sites to provide thousands of free lessons and educational activities that reinforce key concepts taught on the air.
  • Community: Local public television stations provide direct training, support, and resources to families with children at risk of illiteracy.

With the strong support of the U.S. Department of Education, public broadcasters are making a difference.

  • Almost 140 Ready To Learn stations broadcast six-and-one-half hours per day of programs like SESAME STREET, READING RAINBOW,and BETWEEN THE LIONS, reaching 37 million children each week with nonviolent, noncommercial, educational television.
  • Web users view a pbskids.org page more than 100 million times each month.
  • Almost 700,000 adults caring for 7 million children have benefited from Ready To Learn workshops at local stations.
  • PBS stations have distributed more than two million free books to children in their communities.

And, we know it is working. A 1999 study by the University of Alabama found that Ready To Learn workshops in local communities have lasting impact. Parents who attend our workshops read to their preschool children more often, and for longer periods, than similar parents who did not attend. Their children watch 40 percent less TV, and what they do watch is more educational. And Ready To Learn families make more frequent visits to libraries and bookstores than families who have not been touched by the service. These simple, significant changes offer every family the opportunity to better prepare their children for school success.

Our programs make a difference, too. SESAME STREET has been the leader in educational TV for preschoolers for three decades. The program continues to evolve based on the latest research to provide more gateways to learning. The reformatted series now employs innovative new segments that teach letter sounds, math, and even Spanish.

BETWEEN THE LIONS has pioneered the use of television as a tool to teach reading. The nation’s top literacy experts and the TV industry’s leading artists have created an integrated approach to reading instruction that seamlessly blends the benefits of whole language and phonics. The result is what TV critics call the best kids program on television today. In a 2000 study by the University of Kansas, kindergartners who watched just 8.5 hours of BETWEEN THE LIONS saw significant gains in their reading skills and scores. Students who watched BETWEEN THE LIONS outperformed other students by 4:1 on key reading skills emphasized on the program. In the key skill of matching letters and sounds, learning was so accelerated that kindergartners who watched the program exceeded the benchmark for first grade.

PBS is proud to partner with the Department of Education to offer Ready To Learn services to millions of America’s children. We applaud the President and Mrs. Bush for their unwavering commitment to early childhood learning and universal children’s literacy. PBS and local public television stations across the country pledge our continued commitment to ensure that no child in America is left behind.