Carnegie Supports "Between the Lions," New Children's TV Program

Between the Lions, the most educationally ambitious and creative children’s television program to be developed in the past decade, will debut nationwide on the Public Broadcasting Service on April 3, 2000. Produced by an award-winning team at WGBH Boston and Sirius Thinking, Ltd., New York, the series will help young children master essential literacy skills and inspire them to enjoy reading, writing and storytelling. Set in a public library, the show features the puppet lions, Theo and Cleo, their cubs, and a diverse array of animated features, celebrity teachers, music and storybooks. The show, which will air daily, targets children ages four to seven, their parents and their teachers.

As the Corporation’s report, Years of Promise, documents, learning to read, write and compute well in preschool and the early grades is essential in laying the foundation for long-term success in school. But far too many youngsters are lagging behind in elementary school on even the most fundamental literacy skills. The recently released findings from the National Assessment of Educational Progress found that almost 40 percent of America’s fourth graders are not able to read at a basic level. Two-thirds of African American and Latino fourth grade students read below a basic level.

Research on the impact of Sesame Street and other educational programs indicates that television can be an effective tool in promoting literacy in young children. A 1995 study found that 6- and 7-year-olds who had frequently viewed Sesame Street when they were younger had better reading comprehension scores in first and second grades than children who had been less frequent viewers. Since providing $l million in start-up funds for Sesame Street in 1968, the Corporation has funded many children’s television projects.

Between the Lions’ academic curriculum was developed with the nation’s top literacy experts; it is composed of a balanced early literacy approach that is based on the latest reading research. Through an outreach and public awareness campaign about the importance of early literacy, the program’s creative and educational components will be used to forge alliances between literacy and library organizations, early childhood professional associations, and curriculum and textbook companies.

Check local PBS listings for Between the Lions air times and visit the program’s website at