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TV Shows That Teach Reading & Literacy Skills

Use TV Time to Improve Reading Skills


Make TV time productive for preschoolers and early readers by choosing programs that reinforce early literacy skills. Kids may not learn to read just by watching a TV show, but there are some great shows that are entertaining for kids, but also incorporate a curriculum designed to help kids understand, practice, and develop reading and other early literacy skills. Here are some of the best shows that focus on a reading or early literacy curriculum:

1. Between the Lions

Between the Lions
Copyright © Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). All Rights Reserved
Between the Lions features a family of lions - Mom, Dad, and their children, Lionel and Leona - who run a library that is filled with the magic of books. Each episode finds the cubs using reading and language as they learn and grow through their daily experiences. The series combines puppetry, animation, live action and music to develop a literacy curriculum geared to beginning readers aged four to seven. Characters from books come alive, letters sing and dance, and words play in the world between the lions. Also, every episode addresses the five key areas of reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and text comprehension. (Airs on PBS, check local listings.)

2. Super Why

Super Why
Photo © PBS KIDS
Super Why follows the adventures of four friends, the Super Readers, who use fairy tales to solve problems in their every day life. When a problem occurs, the Super Readers -- Alpha Pig with Alphabet Power, Wonder Red with Word Power, Princess Presto with Spelling Power, and Super Why with the Power to Read -- invite Super YOU to come into the pages of a magical storybook world and help them. Kids follow along as the Readers read and watch a story, talk with the characters, play word games to ensure the story is correct, and relate the story's lesson to the problem they are trying to solve. (PBS)

3. WordWorld

Photo © PBS KIDS
The 3D animated series WordWorld incorporates letters into the characters and animation to help kids understand that letters make sounds and, when put together, spell words. The comedic plots center around the WordFriends -- Sheep, Frog, Duck, Pig, Ant, and Dog. The animals are drawn as letters that form the shape of their bodies, so kids can see the word "Dog," for example, as they watch Dog. In each episode of WordWorld, the friends tackle daily difficulties, which they solve by helping each other and using their word skills to "build a word." Viewing children watch as letters of a word come together and then morph into the object the word represents, helping kids understand the connection between letters, sounds and words. (PBS)

4. Sesame Street

Sesame Street
Photo © 2008 Sesame Workshop. All Rights Reserved. Photo Credit: Theo Wargo
I know, everybody already knows about Sesame Street and what a great children’s show it is. After all, Sesame Street has been on the air since 1969, and has won more Emmys than any other show. That’s not to mention the other awards the show has earned, including multiple Peabodys, Parents’ Choice Awards, and more. Each season, the show rededicates itself to new themes and areas of emphasis. One recent season started a new "word of the day" trend to help kids expand their vocabularies. (PBS)

5. Pinky Dinky Doo

Photo © NOGGIN
Pinky Dinky Doo may be a little girl, but she has big ideas and an even bigger imagination. Pinky lives with her family, the Dinky Doo’s, including Mom, Dad, her little brother Tyler, and her pet Mr. Guinea Pig. Beginning each episode, Tyler comes to Pinky with a big problem, and he uses a big word to help describe it. A sweet and caring big sister, Pinky takes Tyler to the story box where, with strategic help from Mr. Guinea Pig, Pinky tells a story that will surely lift Tyler’s spirits and help him solve the dilemma. Tyler’s big word is used several times throughout the story, helping kids to understand the word and add it to their vocabulary. (NOGGIN)

6. Wilbur

Photo © EKA Productions
When Wilbur gets the wiggles, his animal friends know that an exciting story is on the way. Wilbur the 8-year-old calf helps his friends - Ray the rooster, Dasha the duck, and Libby the lamb - solve everyday problems through reading a book and relating the story to their own situation or dilemma. Wilbur and his colorful puppet friends show kids that reading can be fun and informational. Viewing children see stories read as the pages are turned, and they hear the stories' lessons applied to real life situations. (Discovery Kids)

7. Blue's Room

Blue's Room
Blue's Room is a spin-off of the long-running show Blue's Clues, and stars the same lovable puppy, Blue. In Blue's Room, however, Blue is a puppet who can talk. The show also stars Joe, Blue's familiar friend, and Blue's little brother, Sprinkles. Each episode of Blue's Room takes place in Blue's room, where Blue, Sprinkles and Joe interact with viewing children in a fun and educational play date. Other friends who are often invited to play are Blue's playroom friends Frederica and Roar E. Saurus. (Nick Jr.)

8. The Electric Company

The Electric Company
Photo © Sesame Workshop
Based on the shockingly educational show from the 1970s, The Electric Company is a new and updated PBS series by Sesame Workshop. The Electric Company is targeted toward kids ages 6-9 years old, and focuses on helping kids learn literacy skills. On the show, the Electric Company is a group of kids who have literacy super-powers. They can create words by summoning letters in their hands and throwing them at a surface or in the air, and the four core members have individual skills as well. Each episode of The Electric Company develops a narrative story-line, but also includes music videos, sketch comedy, animation and short films all of which focus on reading skills such as decoding, blending, and more. (PBS)
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