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Literacy Outreach to Latino Children

Sirius Thinking, Ltd., Launches Research
Focused on English Language Learners

BTL Partners With MALDEF for Radio PSA Starring Esai Morales

Distribution Source : Market Wire

Date : Wednesday, March 10, 2004

BOSTON, MA -- (Market Wire - Mar 10, 2004) -- Recent research shows that students of limited English proficiency lag significantly behind their English-speaking peers in reading -- this is especially true for children from Hispanic backgrounds -- and that children who have an inadequate start in reading have a difficult time catching up with their peers in later grades.(1)

Recognizing the vital need to close this gap, "BETWEEN THE LIONS," the Emmy Award-winning PBS KIDS series, co-produced by WGBH Boston and Sirius Thinking, Ltd., has launched a national literacy outreach campaign targeting young Spanish-speaking English Language Learners (ELL).

Brigid Sullivan, Vice President for Children's, Educational and Interactive Programming and Media Access at WGBH said, "This campaign is an exciting extension of the outreach the series has dedicated to multicultural audiences, and presents an important opportunity to reach the large number of Spanish-speaking children learning English. We are optimistic that, using multiple platforms of print, radio and television, together with workshops for educators, 'BETWEEN THE LIONS' can make a real difference in helping to address the challenges facing these children in their early education."

Making "BETWEEN THE LIONS" More Accessible to English Language Learners

The cornerstone of the campaign is a research and development project led by Sirius Thinking, Ltd. to create and test a new version of the show for an audience of young Spanish-speaking English Language Learners and their families.

"With approximately 1.4 million ELL students in kindergarten and first grade nationally, we saw this project as an incredible opportunity to make the literacy-based 'BETWEEN THE LIONS' programs more accessible to that growing audience," said Christopher Cerf, co-creator and creative producer of "BETWEEN THE LIONS" and president of Sirius Thinking, Ltd. "Not only do we hope it will provide educators and families with a powerful tool to help those children learn to read, but will help pave the way for the students' future success in school."

The project is funded by a grant to Sirius Thinking from the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The research is being conducted by a team led by Principal Investigator Daniel H. Shanahan, Ph.D., Multicultural/Multilingual Studies, Language Learning. Dr. Shanahan oversees all aspects of the research, and is assisted by a number of educational researchers with diverse research backgrounds and significant experience in their areas of expertise.

In Phase I of the study recently completed, Sirius Thinking modified one episode of "BETWEEN THE LIONS," through editing, translation, dubbing, and the introduction of a Spanish-speaking character. The revisions were found to make the episode's content more comprehensible and appealing to an audience of Spanish-speaking ELL children.

Based on those findings, Phase II of the study begins this month with the modification of six more episodes -- these new versions will be tested with Spanish-speaking ELL students in kindergarten and first grade from selected schools in New York City in 2005. Daniel Shanahan will then test the efficacy of these modified versions of the show on increasing the level of the children's emergent literacy skills in English (phonics, phonemic awareness, text comprehension, fluency, and vocabulary development).

Pilot PSA Program in English and Spanish with MALDEF

In addition to the research, "BETWEEN THE LIONS" has partnered with MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) to produce a pilot radio public service announcement entitled "Going Places," encouraging parents to take an active role in helping their children learn to read. The spots, starring Esai Morales ("NYPD Blue," "American Family") and Leona Lion from "BETWEEN THE LIONS," were produced in both English and Spanish, and aim to make Latino families aware of the importance of reading to their children. The PSAs are being distributed to more than 1,000 radio stations to reach audiences across the country, with a special focus on areas with a large Hispanic population.

"MALDEF believes that a quality education is the key to Latino progress towards equity in American society -- and that reading is the foundation of a successful education," said Ray Ramirez, MALDEF vice president for development. "MALDEF proudly joins 'BETWEEN THE LIONS' in an early childhood literacy campaign -- and hopes to continue the partnership -- because we believe that children make the most progress towards learning to read well when they read with their parents and family, as early and as often as possible."

To access audio files of the PSA, please go to, click on PBS Kids Programs, and scroll down to "BETWEEN THE LIONS."

"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.

Sirius Thinking, Ltd. is a children's educational entertainment media company based in New York City. Its founders, Christopher Cerf, Michael Frith, Norman Stiles and John Sculley, have extensive experience in the development and production of education/entertainment properties and have won a host of honors including multiple Emmy & Grammy awards.

"BETWEEN THE LIONS" is funded in part by a Ready To Learn Television Cooperative Agreement from the US Department of Education through the Public Broadcasting Service and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. National corporate sponsorship is provided by Chick-fil-A®.

The "BETWEEN THE LIONS" team is committed to making quality television available to all children. Each episode is accessible to blind and visually impaired viewers through WGBH Boston's innovative, Emmy Award-winning Descriptive Video Service® (DVS®). The series also is closed captioned by the Caption Center at WGBH for viewers who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.

WGBH Boston is the producer of award-winning children's series such as "Arthur," "BETWEEN THE LIONS," and "ZOOM," airing on PBS. Under the leadership of vice president Brigid Sullivan, the WGBH children's lineup leads the field in educational multimedia (including the Web, broadband, and interactive television) and in technologies and services that make media accessible for people with disabilities. WGBH's current children's series have been recognized with some of the world's most prestigious awards, including 10 Emmys, the George Foster Peabody award, three Prix Jeunesse awards, a BAFTA, and more than half a dozen Parents' Choice awards.

MALDEF founded in San Antonio, Texas in 1968, promotes educational excellence, economic development, and greater participation on behalf of Latinos and all Americans. MALDEF works directly with the legal system, pressing for fair and equal treatment of Latinos in five main areas: Education, Employment, Political Access, Immigrant Rights, and Public Resource Equity. Since its founding, MALDEF has been at the forefront of civil rights litigation, setting precedent in many cases and increasing opportunities for Latinos in all aspects of American society. Headquartered now in Los Angeles, MALDEF maintains regional offices in San Antonio, Chicago, Washington, D.C. and Atlanta, as well as program offices in Sacramento and Houston.

© 2004 WGBH Educational Foundation and Sirius Thinking, Ltd. All rights reserved. "BETWEEN THE LIONS," Get Wild about Reading, and the "BETWEEN THE LIONS" characters and related indicia are trademarks of WGBH Educational Foundation. All third party trademarks are the property of their respective owners. Used with permission.

(1) Source: Hartocollis, A. (2002). Analysis finds race disparity in school tests. The New York Times. March 28.

Press Contact:

Tracy Patterson
WGBH Boston

Photography Contact
Tsering Yangzom
WGBH Boston
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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