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May 14, 2009

PBS and Me

PK_GIRL_MED_C PBS has always been part of my life, beginning in childhood, following me throughout my career as a teacher, and now as a mom.  As a kid, I woke up early on Sunday mornings to watch 3 hours of back to back Sesame Street episodes on our local PBS affiliate each Sunday morning. As a teacher, I’ve taught PBS TeacherLine online professional development courses for educators and now work as the Community Manager for PBS Teachers in a role that connects me to the education division, a select group of brilliant Teacher Leaders, and 40,000 teachers in our online community. And most importantly, PBS has been instrumental in providing high quality programming that my children are exposed to on a daily basis.

As a parent, I’m very particular about our children’s screen time.  I scrutinize what my kids watch and limit the amount of time they spend on the computer and watching television.But I grew up on PBS and I think I turned out pretty darn well so it was natural for me to turn to PBS when my children were old enough for some screen time.

As my kids have grown, their preferences for shows has grown along with them. First Sesame Street was replaced by Clifford, then Super Why came on to the scene, and now our DVR is loaded with on demand episodes of Between the Lions, Curious George, Word Girl, and Sid the Science Kid.And of course both children like to get on PBSKids.org or PBSKids Island to play interactive games and video clips that accompany their favorite shows. 

PBS DC event Photos 024Since I love reliving my childhood through our children, I was thrilled to have been invited to PBS  headquarters in Arlington, VA on May 6 with my fellow DC Metro Moms.I had been to PBS before but was excited about taking my children to children’s programming utopia with its 6 huge flat screens in the lobby and floors and floors and PBS goodness surrounding us. The minute we stepped off the elevator, we were greeted by some of that goodness in the form of Clifford the Big Red Dog. After hugs for Clifford, I parked my two kids and my worry about their well being in PBS paradise filled with stuffed characters from various shows, coloring pages, Sesame Street books, Super Why masks, WordWorld stickers, and a kid friendly buffet.

Without a wave, kiss, or ‘bye mom I headed next door for some lunch and a behind-the-scenes look at SUPER WHY! with its Creator and Executive Producer, Angela C. Santomero, and Lesli Rotenberg, PBS' Senior Vice President of Children's Media. The event was held to share the research and development of PBS KIDS shows like SUPER WHY!, one of PBS KIDS most popular shows for preschoolers.

Angela showed clips from a SUPER WHY! episode, walking us through all the elements that are needed  to make shows educational and FUN for kids. As Super Why super fans, I’ve watched plenty of episodes with my kids to know they are definitely fun and educational.  We know all about the characters in the show, their powers, and how they look in a book to solve a problem. We sing the alphabet the Super Why way, wish we had WhyFliers, and my husband secretly wishes his phone had the same ringtone as Whyatt’s.

PBS DC event Photos 015SUPER WHY! was created on research-based literacy curriculum and uses an engaging approach with lovable superhero characters (Alpha Pig, Princess Presto, Wonder Red, and Super Why) that kids can relate to in order to build the fundamental skills that kids need for the "power to read." The fact that the show is so fun draws kids in and teaches them to read at the same time. The teacher in me recognized the innovative way the show teaches children beginning literacy skills the first time I ever saw it.  Teaching kids to use the super powers represented by each Super Why character to recognize letters, decode, spell, and learn letter sounds helps them reach the ultimate goal of becoming super readers.

The Tech Savvy Mama in me loved that PBS KIDS also wanted to hear directly from moms about the role media plays in their families’ lives. Lesli talked about how PBS KIDS takes a 360-degree approach to a child's world, far beyond television, finding ways to offer a child learning opportunities throughout their day - including Web, handhelds, books and toys, community events.

PBS DC event Photos 012As a parent, I’ve had the opportunity to witness the 360 approach as my kids move between the programming on the television to what is on PBSKIDS, PBSKIDS Island, PBSKIDS Play, and the other PBS sites designed for children. I love that there is a great deal of thought put into the educational benefits of television shows and web content and that providing a positive learning experience is always at the forefront of PBS programming.

We could have stayed at PBS all day. Not only did I find the discussion to be fascinating from a parent and an educator perspective, but it reinforced why PBS has always been a part of my life. With my kids right at home in their PBS paradise, the time came to collect them and head home. They greeted me carrying swag bags of their own and with fistfuls of more PBS paraphernalia.

As my two children trailed behind as I rolled our PBS Kids Media Tool kit full of more PBS goodness (like at home activities based on the Three Pigs SUPER WHY! episode available for public download here!) to the car, I realized that they are being groomed to choose PBS for their own kids too. If PBS continues to provide such high quality programming then I would be more than happy for this to come full circle and find myself engaging the latest and greatest PBS programming with my grandkids!

Thanks PBS!

Check out what DC Metro Mom Bloggers had to say about their afternoon with PBS Kids and Super Why!

Original DC Metro Moms post.

Leticia Barr can often be found authoring books using the Super Why storybook creator with her 5 and almost 3 year old.Leticia is a Technology Magnet Coordinator for Montgomery County Public Schools and is the founder of Tech Savvy Mama a website that assists parents in make good decisions about the types of media they bring into their homes for their own children based on her experiences as a teacher and mom. She works as the PBS Teachers Community Manager and has been featured as a guest expert on PBS Media Infusion where she wrote about Reinforcing Reading Skills with Interactive Websites. Leticia also blogs at DC Metro Moms and is the City Editor of Being Savvy Washington DC.

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