I've always maintained that watching TV can be a positive, educational experience for children. Actually, make that: "watching PBS is a positive, educational experience for children". There's a lot of good quality programming on many kids' networks these days, but as far as I'm concerned, PBS sets the gold standard in educational TV. A lot of it has to do with my own experiences; I learned to read watching the two original PBS Kids programs: Sesame Street and The Electric Company. And because they're noncommercial, airing on nonprofit stations, I really get the sense that they put kids' interests first. I've put absolute trust in the PBS Kids brand: if it's a PBS show, I let my kids watch it.
The Silicon Valley Moms bloggers were recently invited by PBS Kids to learn about the thought and research that goes into all the media (tv shows, online, books, licensing deals, etc..) that PBS Kids develops. I was happy to see that the whole non-commercial, nonprofit vibe extended to this event as well: I didn't get the sense that this was some kind of marketing ploy, because it was actually a two-way discussion. The PBS executives were genuinely interested in hearing from us how PBS shows have influenced our children and how they can work more effectively to reach parents.
By the way, this is totally unrelated, but did you know that Alfie and I held our wedding reception in this very same room? We drank champagne and fed each other wedding cake right about where Citymama (in the sunny yellow jacket) is sitting.
Back to the subject....that's Angela Santomero, creator, executive producer and head writer of SUPER WHY, a PBS Kids tv series. Angela spoke to us about the extensive research process that goes behind each SUPER WHY episode, and all the success it has had in increasing pre-literacy skills in preschoolers. I feel like I should have asked for an autograph, because in my mind she's a bit like a female Jim Henson -- she's also the creator of Blue's Clues, one of my kids' favorite shows when they were younger, and in my mind, one of the cutest preschoolers' shows ever. She's two for two with SUPER WHY; my iPod is filled with SUPER WHY episodes for the kids to watch when we're on road trips or plane trips. And from the independent studies Angela was quoting from, it sure sounds like SUPER WHY is helping kids gain the skills they need to learn how to read, in the same way that Sesame Street and The Electric Company helped me.
We were sent home with a backpack filled with a week's worth of activities to maximize the educational value of SuperWhy. I'm guessing (or hoping) these activites are patterned after their highly successful SUPER WHY Reading Camps, and I'm eager to do the activities with 3Po and Jammy. Call it our very own Super Summer Camp, if you will. I'll be blogging a bit more about the activities as we plow through them, and you can download the same activities we received and try it along with us. Hey, it's free, and your kids will learn something besides making macrame potholders.