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WSIU Participates in Raising Readers Program

Contact: Beth Spezia, WSIU Outreach Coordinator, (618) 453-5595, beth.spezia@wsiu.org

Research Study Shows PBS KIDS Raising Readers Prepares Children for Kindergarten
-WSIU and local early child education groups participating in multi-year initiative to increase literacy skills

Carbondale, Ill. - WSIU-TV, local educators, libraries, and families are partners in the national PBS KIDS Raising Readers initiative to increase literacy among at-risk children and prepare them for success in school.

According to a new study conducted by Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC), a global nonprofit organization that designs, delivers, and evaluates programs that address education and health challenges, and SRI International, an independent, non-profit research institute, low-income children were better prepared for success in kindergarten when their preschool teachers utilized a media-rich literacy curriculum integrating public media video content and educational games. The study was commissioned by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) to evaluate video and interactive games that are part of the PBS KIDS Raising Readers initiative, which uses multiplatform content and targeted, local community engagement activities to help increase literacy skills for children ages 2-to-8, especially those from low-income families.

The study examined whether young children's literacy skills - the ability to name letters, know the sounds associated with those letters, and understand basic concepts about stories and printed words - increased when preschool classrooms incorporated video and games. Children with the most to learn in the study gained the most, learning an average of 7.5 more letters than children in a comparison group during the brief, intensive curriculum.

In the study, 398 children from low-income families in 80 preschool classes were taught with a special curriculum that included active video viewing and hands-on play with letters, sounds, and books. Teachers were given coaching and support to help them deliver the curriculum successfully. The research, conducted from January through June 2009, found that early literacy skills all increased significantly compared to children who did not participate in the curriculum.

"The fact that the curriculum studied proved effective in a randomized controlled trial with this population makes it among the few preschool curricula with strong evidence of a positive impact," said William Penuel, Ph.D., director of evaluation research for SRI's Center for Technology and Learning. He noted that a recent U.S. Dept. of Education review last year of 15 randomized controlled studies of preschool curricula found that only two of the 15 curricula had a positive effect on the literacy skills targeted in this study.

"We know public media can improve literacy skills when kids watch at home; what we didn't know is that content from multiple PBS KIDS shows could be effectively integrated into a curriculum and implemented by teachers," Penuel added. "If media can be harnessed to help close this literacy gap, as this study has shown, it's a powerful new tool for preschool teachers."

"This research reinforces what we've learned through other studies related to PBS KIDS Raising Readers," said Greg Petrowich, Executive Director of WSIU Public Broadcasting. "Our programming and online resources can play an essential role in helping to close the early literacy gap for children in our community."

Four other studies released this year concluded that content from three award-winning PBS KIDS Raising Readers series, Super WHY!, Between the Lions and Wordworld, is effective in developing critical reading skills among three-to-six-year-olds.

The study was commissioned by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to evaluate video and interactive games that are part of the PBS KIDS Raising Readers initiative. Raising Readers is funded by the U.S. Department of Education's Ready To Learn grant, administered in part through CPB, in partnership with PBS. To access the full study, sample content from the curriculum, and a video interview with a teacher who participated in the study, go to: http://cct.edc.org/rtl.

WSIU TV and local partners also have implemented a variety of literacy building programs and activities, including:

  • Workshops for area educators and parenting groups to share PBS KIDS resources that boost children's reading and vocabulary skills.
  • Utilizing the Raising Readers Literacy Van, in partnership with Child Care Resource and Referral at John A. Logan College, for media presentations and literacy activities at community events across the region.
  • Community based research towards the development of new children's television programming at the national level.
  • Reading camps designed to boost the literacy skills of preschool children. Based on the PBS KIDS literacy series, SuperWHY, the camps include targeted instruction and games, visits by SuperWHY, and education resources.
  • Martha Speaks Reading Buddies, an eight-week reading program pairing students in kindergarten and fourth grades at local schools to develop their reading, vocabulary, and social skills.
  • Establishing PBS KIDS Library Corners in several local libraries, which includes area rugs, banners, and dedicated shelving units, books, DVDs, and computer stations with direct access to PBS KIDS Island, an online literacy game for families.
  • The Electric Company Circuit Tour, a public event at Rent One Ballpark with a live performance by beatbox performer and Electric Company cast member Chris Sullivan, who used hip-hop, spoken word, and storytelling to teach reading fundamentals to over 300 kids. WSIU is distributing more than 500 copies of The Electric Company toolkits to schools, church youth groups, and after school program partners, and providing specialized technical support for the literacy activates in the toolkits.
  • An in-store family literacy game, Supermarket Explorer, at Save-A-Lot of Carbondale, that provides incentives to learn about words, letters, and healthy foods together while shopping.

For more information, go to wsiu.org or www.readytolearnreading.org. To participate in WSIU's Raising Readers research and education program, contact Beth Spezia at 618-453-5595 or beth.spezia@wsiu.org.

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