PBS Offers Tools to Help Early Readers Grow
A Way To Gauge.
By Drew B. Saunders, Education Communications, PBS
No matter what new educational theories come down the pike, all parents and teachers instinctively know that the most important learning skill a child must possess is the ability to read, and to read well.
Reading is at the core of learning, and parents strive to instill the basis of reading in their children’s early years of development. Not only do we read to our children and read with our children, we also demonstrate to them that we like to read for pleasure ourselves. Since parents and caregivers are the most powerful influence on a child’s future behaviors, showing them that adults possess a love of reading is essential.
But it can sometimes be a challenging task, particularly these days when so many other forces attract and capture our children’s attention: television, computer games, clubs and sports activities, the Internet, and all the rest. But we keep at it because we know that a child’s ability to read is the best predictor of his or her future academic success.
Just because parents have been charged with this responsibility doesn’t mean they can’t call for some assistance. PBS, in addition to creating great on-air programs likeSesame Street and Reading Rainbow to help young readers flourish, also has free online resources for parents and teachers all about guiding students as they learn to read and write.
One such resource is Between the Lions, an award-winning television series that premiered in April 2000 and is designed to foster the literacy skills of its viewers, while playfully demonstrating the joys of reading. Each show aims to guide kids four to seven years old towards a love of reading and successful development of reading skills.
While watching, children learn to become excited about reading and learning.
Based on recommendations from leading reading experts, each episode guides young children to explore specific details such as phonemic awareness, text structure, individual words and other print features. Between the Lions also features a companion Web site where parents and teachers can find dozens of learning games, interactive activities and lesson plans for all 70 of the series’ programs. The Web site is available at pbskids.org/lions.
Another online resource for homeschooling parents and caregivers is PBS Parents. This Web destination (located at pbsparents.org) is a one-stop shop for advice, activities and fresh ideas in parenting and helping children, whether it’s improving reading, understanding mathematics, or even how to wind children down in the evenings so they’re ready for bed!
In the Issues and Advice section of the PBS Parents site, parents and caregivers can find informational articles and helpful strategies on issues like “Talking with Kids,” “Children and Media,” and “Health and Safety.” In the “Reading and Language” section parents can explore how children from the cradle to 3rd grade react to and interact with reading. The site helps parents know what to expect with each age group, how to support kids as they learn, and how to challenge them to new goals in their reading education.
PBS Parents also has recommended books and an Expert Q&A feature that allows site visitors to ask questions of noted experts in the fields of child development and learning. Later this spring the Parents Web site will be relaunched and host even more resources for caregivers and parents, including a book search feature and more detailed articles on a host of early development issues.
The PBS program and Web site Reading Rockets: Launching Young Readers is another excellent source for parents, teachers and caregivers. Based on the latest research findings, the program and site examine the five stages young children go through in developing their reading skills. From baby speech to vocabulary building to finding meaning in texts, the Web site (found at pbs.org/launchingreaders) addresses common concerns, highlights helpful articles and shows how parents can interact with their children to increase literacy.
While we all hope that our students will succeed in their studies and their reading, sometimes it’s no easy task. Studies have shown that for nearly one in five young students, learning to read is an exhausting and frustrating struggle. These children may be suffering from learning problems that can sometimes go unnoticed and undiagnosed. If not addressed, these learning difficulties can have a long-term impact on the students’ self-esteem and future academic and social success.
PBS’ documentary and Web site Misunderstood Minds shines a spotlight on this subject, following the stories of five families as, together with experts, they try to solve the mysteries of their children’s learning difficulties. At the program’s Web sitepbs.org/misunderstoodminds parents searching for the scientific explanations behind learning differences–and strategies to help combat them–can find both.
The site includes sections on Attention, Reading, Writing, and Mathematics. Interactive activities, called “Experience Firsthand,” are designed to give site visitors a sense of what it may be like for a student struggling with a basic skill. Visitors can attempt to complete memory activities, timed readings and face the challenge of tracing letters as if they were first learning them. The Web site is also accessible, designed for use with screen reader devices that render text into speech for blind and low-vision Web users.
Granting kids the joy of reading is a gift parents and teachers can share. Use these on-air and online resources to help your students on this lifelong journey of learning!
There’s a lot of great content to promote to teachers and students as the school year wraps up! The schedule also reflects our acknowledgement of two important remembrances, Holocaust Remembrance Day (May 5) and Memorial Day (May 30). Highlights of programs with extended taping rights (minimum one year) and their companion Web resources for K-12 are detailed below.
Airs a month of new programs. “Victory in the Pacific” is a two-hour program that focuses on the bloody battle for Okinawa, airing nearly 60 years after the intense three-month campaign was fought. “The Carter Family: An American Original” traces the story of the original musical trio of Virginians and the quartet of successors whose more than 300 recordings helped establish what has become the country music industry. “Bataan Rescue” explores how, after winning the 1941 battle over the Philippines’ Bataan peninsula, the Japanese imprisoned tens of thousands of American and Filipino soldiers. Three years later in the last days of the war, American soldiers staged a daring mission to rescue the prisoners who had managed to survive the brutal conditions. All programs use primary sources, images, interviews, and feature accompanying web sites found at www.pbs.org/amex.
Offers three programs this month featuring 20th century history and current events. “Imelda” is the story of Imelda Marcos, former first lady of the Philippines. The program features primary source news clips, propaganda films, home movies, vérité footage and revealing interviews with Marcos herself as well as with her friends and her enemies. “The Last Letter”-In 1941, A Russian Jewish woman living in a Ukrainian city seized by the Germans writes her son a final letter. She knows that all the Jews will be killed within days. In this last letter she shows her courage, dignity, fear and fierce love of her son as she reviews her life and faces her death. This moving program also features two short films “Zyklon Portrait” and “The Walnut Tree.” Finally, “Vietnam: The Next Generation” introduces viewers to eight young Vietnamese, some born in the final days of the Vietnam War, others in the war’s tragic aftermath. They are entrepreneurs and street kids, farmers and students, artists and engineers. Through their stories, this program takes an in-depth look at modern day Vietnam, where communism and capitalism are meeting head-to-head. More information can be found at www.pbs.org/independentlens.
SUGIHARA: CONSPIRACY OF KINDNESS
This documentary is the compelling and inspirational story of Chiune Sugihara, the Japanese Consul in Lithuania during Hitler’s rise to power. In the face of the Nazi onslaught, Sugihara saved more than 2000 lives, using his power as a diplomat to rescue fleeing Jewish refugees. He risked his career, disgrace and even his life by disobeying government orders and writing visas for these desperate refugees. Unprecedented access to Sugihara’s family and their personal films, photos and papers, allows viewers to re-live the events during World War II as well as Sugihara’s struggles in the years after the war. The film also chronicles the fascinating relationship between the Japanese and the Jews during the 1930’s and 40’s.
The latest season of BARNEY & FRIENDS begins with ten new episodes scheduled through the summer. More information, games, activities and a parents and teachers area can be found online at www.pbskids.org/barney.
MAYA & MIGUEL
Is this season’s new program for 7 to 11 year olds that presents culture and language learning as fun, relevant and rewarding for all children. MAYA & MIGUEL will feature four new episodes this month to accompany their celebration of May, “Maya MAYnia”. Find interactives, activities and a teacher’s area atwww.pbskidsgo.org/mayaandmiguel.
NATIONAL MEMORIAL DAY CONCERT
On the eve of Memorial Day, an annual tradition honors the bravery and sacrifice of America’s servicemen and servicewomen with a broadcast live from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. Dedicated to all the Americans who serve, the 90-minute event features some of Hollywood’s most prominent stars and Grammy-award winning artists, including acclaimed actors Joe Mantegna and Charles Durning under the direction of maestro Erich Kunzel leading the National Symphony Orchestra. This year’s concert will honor the 60th anniversary of Iwo Jima and pay tribute to our troops serving in Iraq. The concert features uplifting musical performances, documentary footage and dramatic readings. Information about the history of Memorial Day is available at www.pbs.org/memorialdayconcert.
This critically acclaimed series returns for a third season, premiering in June. Revealing the historical significance of artifacts, buildings and legends from cities and towns across America, each hour-long episode follows four gumshoes as they tackle three intriguing and unanswered mysteries. Utilizing the best in the fields of forensics, research, architecture and archaeology, HISTORY DETECTIVES takes old-fashioned sleuthing into the 21st century. The series also hosts a large interactive Web site for kids, found at www.pbskids.org/historydetectives, where students can learn more about each program, play games and print out additional activities for use in the classroom.
THE NEW HEROES
This program profiles successful social entrepreneurs and their businesses and inventions. Students can log on to http://www.pbs.org/opb/thenewheroes/ to learn more about how these social businesses are built, and they can submit their own stories about finding creative solutions to help their communities. The site also offers an assessment quiz to find out where students’ own talents may lie in various entrepreneurial fields.
DECLINING BY DEGREES: HIGHER EDUCATION AT RISK
This program takes viewers behind the scenes of American higher education to experience college through the eyes of students, parents, professors and college administrators. Some 14 million students attend 4,000 institutions and are, for the most part, satisfied with the results. But how good an education are they getting? What about the quality of teaching and learning on campus? Is it good enough to meet the future head on? Set on four different college campuses across the country-a private liberal arts college, two public universities and a community college-this special examines both the promise and the peril in higher education today.
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