Ready To Learn Grants Announced

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, PBS and WTTW Chicago have been awarded more than $23 million from the Department of Education to fund educational children’s TV with an emphasis on literacy.

The department announced amounts covering the first year of five-year “Ready To Learn” grants Wednesday.

The CPB and PBS will co-manage $15.8 million, of which $11.8 million will be used to develop children's programming. CPB was also awarded $4 million for outreach efforts.

WTTW Chicago, which submitted its proposal separately from that of CPB and PBS, received $7.4 million.

“This grant affirms the importance of public broadcasting's role connecting to community on behalf of childrens' education,” said Patricia Harrison, CPB's president and CEO. “We look forward to the important work ahead.”

PBS President and CEO Pat Mitchell added: “Over the last decade, in partnership with the Department of Education’s Ready To Learn initiative, PBS and local PBS stations have helped nearly 8 million children prepare for success in school.”

At CPB and PBS, the grants will support existing kids’ educational shows like Sesame Street and Between the Lions.

CPB and PBS will also develop new programs with an eye toward interactive elements, including web content, teacher and parent materials, and multimedia platforms for handheld devices.

WTTW will use its grant for a new children’s public television series, Word World, to premiere January 2007.

Dan Schmidt, president and CEO of WTTC, called Word World “an innovative new program that combines entertainment, education, humor and interactivity to increase literacy among pre-school children throughout the United States.”

When the DOE issued the request for proposals on this Ready To Learn grants, it emphasized that proposals be based in scientific research—in line with the Bush administration's results-based No Child Left Behind program.

In the past, Ready To Learn funds supported shows like Clifford the Big Red Dog and Postcards From Buster. The latter drew criticism earlier this year after an episode aired that featured a family with lesbian parents.

In the wake of the controversy, the House voted to zero out funding for Ready To Learn in June, but the Senate restored the program a few weeks later.