University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication Finds
Curriculum Benefits Teachers and Students
JACKSON, Miss., Feb. 17 /PRNewswire/ -- Mississippi preschoolers at risk
for reading failure make significant gains in reading skills after using an
educational curriculum based on the award-winning PBS series, Between the
Lions. Through the Between the Lions Preschool Literacy Initiative,
Mississippi Public Broadcasting has provided lessons, books and DVDs of
episodes to more than 1,500 economically disadvantaged children across the
(Photo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20090217/CL71717 )
"Our research clearly indicates that the Between the Lions Preschool
Literacy Initiative curriculum positively impacts vocabulary development,
teacher behavior and literacy environments," said Deborah L. Linebarger,
Ph.D., Associate Professor of Communication at the University of
Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication and Lead Investigator in the
study. "We found substantial evidence in the Between the Lions: Mississippi
Literacy Initiative study that children who may be at-risk for reading failure
due to economic disadvantages are acquiring necessary early literacy skills."
Participants in the research study were 319 children in preschools and
child care centers living in economically disadvantaged communities in
Mississippi. The study was conducted during 2007-2008.
"Among the more significant findings is the fact that on some literacy
measures, children who were below the national average at pre-tests, improved
to levels above the national average in post-tests," said Marie Antoon, MPB
Children who participated in the Treatment Group learning with Between
the Lions were better able to identify Lower Case Letters (81.9 percent in the
Treatment Group vs. 61.3 percent in the Control Group) and Letter Sounds (75.2
percent in the Treatment Group vs. 50.5 percent in the Control Group).
In addition, children in the Treatment Group obtained higher scores on
the Get Ready to Read! Screener -- a national measure used to build and
identify early literacy skills -- than the national Head Start average (9 - 12
points vs. 8.52 points).
"The most impressive thing about this study is it confirms that the
Between the Lions Preschool Literacy Initiative is transforming daycare
centers into child learning centers," said Dr. Susan Zelman, Vice President of
Education for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). "The study
indicates that teachers using the curriculum learn new classroom management
strategies and how to carry out activities that build language and other early
reading skills. As a result, the children make enormous gains in key areas of
Funding for this research was provided by CPB in partnership with PBS as
part of the Ready to Learn grant from the U.S. Department of Education.
"This initiative reflects public service media's core mission of
addressing the needs of the unserved and underserved audiences," said Pat
Harrison, president and CEO of CPB. "We congratulate Mississippi Public
Broadcasting for its outstanding efforts and results in reaching children,
caregivers and educators where they live, work, learn and play."
The Barksdale Reading Institute supports early childhood education
nationally and literacy initiatives in Mississippi.
"It is wonderful that Mississippi's children are benefiting from the
curriculum," said Jim Barksdale, founder of the Barksdale Reading Institute
and former chief executive officer of Netscape Communications Corp. "We
applaud the Between the Lions Preschool Literacy Initiative because it clearly
improves early literacy skills that children will need to be ready for
In 2007, MPB began a partnership with Mississippi Rotary District 6820 to
provide the Between the Lions preschool literacy curriculum in child care
centers adopted by Rotary Clubs in the district. Rotary District 6820
Literacy Chairman Jack Forbus explained that one of Rotary's major
international causes is literacy.
"It was hard for us to justify sending our support and volunteers outside
of America when so many of the children right here are drastically behind in
their literacy skills," said Forbus. "We see each day how this initiative is
helping young children learn to read. This project will have a positive impact
on many future generations."
Between The Lions Preschool Literacy Initiative
"PBS is proud to play a role in empowering all children for success in
school and life," said Paula Kerger, President and CEO, PBS. "Since 2000,
Between the Lions has proved itself an effective resource for educators and
parents in advancing literacy."
The Between the Lions Preschool Literacy Initiative was created in 2005
to improve early childhood education and build a strong literacy foundation
among preschoolers. Participating child care centers receive a comprehensive
set of curriculum materials drawn from Between the Lions, along with
professional development and mentoring. The production is a partnership
between MPB, WGBH Boston, Sirius Thinking, Ltd., CPB, U.S. Department of
Education, and Barksdale Reading Institute.
"When Between the Lions first came into production we envisioned the
onscreen learning one day translating into valuable classroom lessons,"
recalls Brigid Sullivan, Vice President of Children's Programming at WGBH
Boston. "It's rewarding to see the continued impact of the series and its
accompanying curriculum programs on children that might not otherwise have the
chance to gain these reading skills."
Mississippi Public Broadcasting has tracked hundreds of success stories
with child care centers that have used the Between the Lions Preschool
"We are proud to be the home of the Between the Lions program and
encouraged by the positive impact it is having and its opportunity for growth
throughout our state and the nation," said MPB Executive Director Marie
To learn more about the Between the Lions Preschool Literacy Initiative
and the Mississippi Literacy Study, please visit -
About Between the Lions: Mississippi Literacy Initiative Study
Participants were measured by PALS-PreK: Alphabet Knowledge, Print and
Story Concepts, Individual Growth and Development Indicators (IGDI), including
Picture Naming IGDI and Initial Sounds Fluency IGDI and the Get Ready to Read!
Screener as well as Classroom Literacy Behaviors. The results were examined
using Analysis of Variance (ANOVA), which represents a statistical technique
used to examine mean differences between predefined groups labeled factors.
Four subscales--General Classroom Environment, Literacy Environment, Language
Literacy, and Curriculum and Literacy Activities--from Early Language and
Literacy Observation (ELLCO) were evaluated for significant differences across
About Between the Lions Preschool Literacy Initiative
Program participants include 73 child care centers, with 95 classrooms,
61 child care directors and administrators, 60 teachers and 1,591 children in
Each participating classroom received:
-- Set of five teachers' guides, with a total of 30 weekly lessons
-- Set of five DVDs, with a 10-15 minute Between the Lions video for each
lesson, edited specifically for preschools
-- Set of 61 related children's books
-- Additional classroom resources, such as alphabet strips, poem and song
charts, magnetic alphabet letters, word cards, story figures, and
Between the Lions is produced by WGBH Boston, Sirius Thinking, Ltd., and
Mississippi Public Broadcasting. The show is funded in part by a grant from
the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and Ready to Learn through the U.S.
Department of Education and by the Barksdale Reading Institute. National
corporate funding is provided by Chick-fil-A, Inc.
PBS KIDS, for preschoolers, and PBS KIDS GO!, for early elementary school
kids, offer all children--from every walk of life--the opportunity to explore
new ideas and new worlds through television, online and outreach programs.
With positive character role models and content designed to nurture a child's
total well-being, PBS's online and community resources--including PBS KIDS
online (pbskids.org), PBS KIDS GO! online (pbskidsgo.org), PBS Parents
(pbsparents.org), PBS Teachers (pbsteachers.org), PBS KIDS Raising Readers and
literacy events across the country--leverage the full spectrum of media,
technology and community to build knowledge, critical thinking, imagination
and curiosity. Empowering children for success in school and in life, only PBS
KIDS and PBS KIDS GO! have earned the unanimous endorsement of parents,
children, industry leaders and teachers. PBS is a nonprofit media enterprise
owned and operated by the nation's 356 public television stations, serving
more than 115 million people on-air and online each month and reaching 99% of
The contents of this study were developed under a cooperative agreement
from the U.S. Department of Education PR/A#U295A050003. However, those
contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the Department of
Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.
Between the Lions: Mississippi Literacy Initiative
Note: more info is available at www.asc.upenn.edu/childrenmedia under the
"Content Comprehension" button
HIGHLIGHTS FROM ANNENBERG 2007-2008 STUDY
-- Post-test, children in the treatment group surpassed the National Head
Start with scores that are predictive of later reading success in the
-- A larger majority of children in the Treatment Group were able to
identify any Lower Case Letters - 81.9 percent compared with 61.3
percent in the Control Group at the post-test.
-- 75.2 percent of children in the Treatment Group compared with 50.5
percent in the Control Group at the post-test were able to identify
Letter Sounds based on the PALS-PreK assessment.
-- Pre-test, 64.1 percent of the Treatment Group was unable to complete
the PALS-PreK assessment for Lower Case Letters vs. 69.4 percent of
Control Group. Post-test, only 18.1 percent in the Control Group was
unable to complete the PALS-PreK Lower Case Letter assessment, vs.
percent in the Control Group.
-- The General Classroom Environment was most positive for teachers in
Treatment Group who received more training and mentoring. Children
also provided with more opportunities for choice and for taking
initiative and teachers used more positive management strategies,
in turn, enhanced the overall classroom environment.
-- Treatment teachers engaged in more and longer full-group and
book-reading sessions; modeled writing; provided writing assistance
opportunities for writing; and set aside time for children to look at
books alone or with a classmate.
-- The study findings indicate that teachers who are new to the Between
the Lions Preschool Literacy Initiative are primed and able to make
changes to the structural features of their classrooms including
general classroom management abilities, specific environmental
that are necessary for literacy support and increased opportunities
-- Conclusions from the study indicate children from low-income and
minority backgrounds spend more time watching television and report
that the experience is of more value in comparison to children from
middle income and majority backgrounds. As such, Between the Lions
curriculum can be a powerful tool for these children when learning to
-- Dr. Deborah L. Linebarger, Director, Children's Media Lab at the
Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania
was lead investigator in the Between the Lions: Mississippi Literacy
Initiative study conducted in 2007 - 2008. Mississippi State
conducted pre- and post-testing.
-- Participants were 319 children in preschools and child care centers
(Mean Age=59.93 months, SD=16.87 months) living in low-income areas in
the state of Mississippi.
-- All children participated in the assessments at their child care
centers, 24 in total, which predominantly serve the economically
-- The Between the Lions Preschool Literacy Initiative partners include
MPB, WGBH Boston, Sirius Thinking, Ltd., Corporation for Public
Broadcasting, U.S. Department of Education, Barksdale Reading
and Rotary International.
For further information:
For further information: Wendy Polk for Mississippi Public Broadcasting,
+1-601-360-9423, firstname.lastname@example.org Web Site: