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BOSTON, July 21, 2000 -- BETWEEN THE LIONS, a new PBS KIDS series produced by WGBH Boston and Sirius Thinking, has demonstrated that TV can teach kids basic reading skills. A newly released University of Kansas study finds that kindergarten students significantly improved key reading skills after watching only 8.5 hours of the program during a four-week period. In addition, children overwhelmingly liked the program as much or better than Pokémon and other favorite shows.

On a test that measures children's knowledge of letter-sound correspondence, a skill that is highly predictive of later reading ability, kindergartners who were tested before and after watching BETWEEN THE LIONS saw their scores rise by 64% -- compared to only 25% gains for similar children who did not watch the show. In fact, their learning was so accelerated, these kindergartners exceeded the benchmark established for children in the winter of first grade.

According to Brigid Sullivan, vice president of children's programming at WGBH, "The nation's top reading experts and creative talent were gathered for BETWEEN THE LIONS, with a mission to develop a program and Web site that would help kids learn to read. The University of Kansas study shows that our curriculum-based content works and that kids love it!"


* In a standardized reading test, kindergarten children who were tested before and after watching the BETWEEN THE LIONS episodes saw their scores rise by 26%⎯compared to only 5% gains for similar children who did not watch the show.

* On tests rating proficiency in specific skills, kindergarten children who viewed the show saw their average performance improve by 50%⎯compared to only 13% for similar children who did not view the program. (The skills included letter-sound correspondence, phonemic awareness and concepts of print.)

* First-graders who watched the show had significantly faster rates of growth in phonemic awareness than those who did not watch.

* 95% of kindergartners and first-graders liked the show. One in six said it was their favorite show, besting the next most popular show, Pokémon. More than 8 in 10 said they liked it as much or better than their favorite show.


Research director Deborah L. Linebarger, Ph.D., of the Juniper Gardens Children's Project at the University of Kansas, conducted the research on kindergarten and first-grade students in the greater Kansas City region. Children watched 17 episodes of the half-hour program in their classrooms during a 3-4 week period before the program aired.

Teachers were instructed not to discuss the show or change instruction in any way. Researchers sought to determine the impact of the program on early reading skills that are highly predictive of reading success. These skills include letter-sound correspondence (the ability to match letters with sounds); phonemic awareness (the awareness that spoken words are made up of sound units); and concepts of print (the understanding that print is read from left to right and from top to bottom, that print differs from pictures, etc.)


BETWEEN THE LIONS, the culmination of more than three years of research, is the first television series to offer educationally valid reading instruction, combining the best of phonics and whole language. The program is the centerpiece of a multimedia literacy initiative that includes a Web site (, books, videos, parent workshops, teacher guides, and other outreach materials.
BETWEEN THE LIONS is produced for PBS KIDS by the award-winning team of WGBH Boston and Sirius Thinking, Ltd., two experts in the creative union of educational goals with laugh-out-loud children's television. The BETWEEN THE LIONS production team is: executive producer, Judith Stoia; creative producer, Christopher Cerf; creative director, Michael K. Frith; and head writer, Norman Stiles. The production is overseen by WGBH's vice president of children's programming, Brigid Sullivan.

Set in an imaginary library run by a family of lions, BETWEEN THE LIONS offers an innovative mix of puppetry, animation, live action, and music. It debuted to widespread critical acclaim on PBS KIDS in April,2000.

BETWEEN THE LIONS was funded in large part by a Ready to Learn grant from the U.S. Department of Education through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Additional major funders include the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Park Foundation, The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, the Charles H. Revson Foundation, and the Institute for Civil Society. National corporate sponsorship is provided by Cheerios and eToys.

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WGBH Boston is America's preeminent public broadcasting producer. More than one-third of PBS's prime-time lineup and companion Web content is produced by WGBH, which is also a pioneer in educational multi-media and access technologies for people with disabilities.

Sirius Thinking, Ltd, a New York-based multi-media education and entertainment company, was founded by top talent from Sesame Street, The Electric Company, Nickelodeon, and Jim Henson Productions.


Susan Barrett, WGBH Boston
Phone: 617-300-5336

© 2000 WGBH Educational Foundation
Between the Lions
The six-time Emmy Award winning BETWEEN THE LIONS, produced by WGBH, Sirius Thinking, and Mississippi Public Broadcasting, has recently premiered ten exciting new episodes on PBS KIDS. Click here for details!

Sirius Thinking, Ltd. has received multiple Emmy and Grammy awards. Click here for a full list of awards won by Between the Lions.
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