Friday, July 24, 2009

This Is A Test of Your Public Broadcasting System...

This past Monday I did one of the most exciting things I've been asked to do as a direct result of my blog. I sat in on a forum set up by our local PBS station (WGBH out of Boston) regarding, specifically, Super Why! and, generally, how we as parents monitor (or don't monitor) what our kids are viewing on T.V. or being exposed to on the internet.

It was a fabulous luncheon where I honestly felt a teensy bit star-struck, not only because I got to meet a couple bloggers I've enjoyed reading for some time now (and some even introduced themselves to me as readers of my stuff!), but because I found myself in the presence of Curious George, Martha from Martha Speaks, and Between the Lions' very only girl-cub, Leona.

How very, very exciting!

(And how very, very impressive that - when I told Sweetie I'd be going to this event and meeting these characters - she hardly bat an eyelash begging permission for her to come along {which she really could have, pretty easily}, but rather got excited along with me and asked me to please take pictures while I was there so she could see her favorite "friends".)

Super Why!'s creator, Angela Santomero, spoke to us (a gathering of 20-30 mom's who blog) about the impressive amount of research that goes into each and every episode of the show. From early storyboard books read to kids in the Tri-state area, to bare-bones animated video productions tested on even larger groups of kids, nothing is spared in making sure that each new Super Why! adventure not only captures the attention and imagination of the children watching, but also teaches them important letter recognition and word-building skills. Skills kids can use directly along with the show as well as in conjunction with the literacy learning they're getting at home and in other educational settings.

In fact, every PBS childrens' program undergoes its own degree of research before airing. PBS's first question, when creating an education show for kids, is "What do kids need?" Nothing is produced without the kids' learning needs in mind as well as the parents' concerns. PBS does not insist that parents expose their kids to this programming, but feel that - if we as parents do wish to present T.V. watching as a valid option to our kids - they want to give us the most responsible and educationally worthwhile shows they possibly can.

Back to Super Why specifically, I was impressed to learn that Super Why! Reading Camps are offered to Title One communities all over the country. Week-long programs with each day focusing on a different step in the letter recognition and reading process. Camps that have proven themselves extremely effective - raising the attendees' proficiency in each of the 6 steps to reading fluency (Letter Naming, Letter Identification, Word Decoding, Letter Sounds, Encoding and Reading Words) anywhere from 4% to 181%! Wow! As a mom I am really impressed. As a reading tutor, I am amazed! Hurray to programming that really works!

As for Sweetie herself, she's pretty much past the Super Why! era. She'll watch new episodes (about 20 per season) once or maybe twice, but long-standing reruns she'll skip entirely (whereas she'll happily watch the same episodes of Word Girl, Martha Speaks or Fetch with Ruff Ruffman 20 times in a row!) Since Sweetie's already a proficient reader at 6 1/2 years old, letter recognition and singing the alphabet song (even Super Why's catchy little version) is rather old news in her book. But I can vouch for how much Sweetie used to watch it and how far it really did help her in increasing her interest in learning to read when she was first stretching those skills.

As for all the Super Why! specific swag I brought home - worksheets and activities for Sweetie to work on over a week's time (said the PBS representatives) - Sweetie was done with one whole packet in no more than 15 minutes. (A week! Yeah, right!) However she is still having fun and taking her time on other fun worksheets I brought home from the event (and still not complaints that she couldn't come with me. Wow!)

As for monitoring what Sweetie can and cannot watch on T.V. - Hubby and I pretty much have to like the show first before we will allow it. Secondly - we have such utterly basic cable that the only children's programming Sweetie really has available to her is PBS programming. And after getting a good look at the behind the scenes action of not only Super Why! but lots others of Sweetie's favorite shows, I have more faith and good feelings than ever with her watching just about any shows that strike her fancy on our public broadcasting channels.

Thank you, WGBH, for an informative and fun day. I learned a lot - just as I know my daughter is learning so much every time she turns the TV to your channels.

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