To support the millions of children lacking the basic early learning skills to succeed in school, the U.S. Department of Education’s Ready To Learn Television grant has funded, for the past two decades, the development of educational television and digital media targeted at preschool and early elementary school children and their families, especially those who live in low-income communities. Under this federal grant, CPB and PBS KIDS work with producers, researchers, local public media stations, and other partners to develop, distribute and evaluate PBS KIDS multiplatform content – including television programs, video, interactive games, mobile apps and hands-on activities – to engage children, families, and educators in learning experiences at home, in preschool, and in out-of-school settings.
2020-2025: Learn Together: Connecting Children's Media and Learning Environments to Build Key Skills for Success
In this grant cycle, CPB and PBS are working with early learning experts to create experiences that expose young children to career and workforce options and help them to build vital functional literacy, critical thinking, collaboration, and "world of work" skills and knowledge. This effort will also empower and equip parents, caregivers, and communities to support children's learning and growth in these areas to put children on a path to lifetime success. This grant is funding three new multi-platform television series and connected digital experiences, four new short-form video series, two new podcasts for children and families, and digital and real-world hybrid learning experiences that support intergenerational and family learning at home, in virtual spaces, and in the community. Local PBS stations will work with diverse community partners as part of a network of Learning Neighborhoods devoted to supporting the early learning needs of children in low-income communities, and the Education Development Center (EDC) will lead a research effort to assess the success of the five-year initiative.
2015-2020: Content, Community and Collaboration: Advancing Children's Learning Through Personalized Media Experiences
In this grant cycle, CPB and PBS worked with experts in early learning to create science and literacy-based television series, videos, games, mobile apps, and engagement resources. The grant funded new content for PBS KIDS series such as The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That! and Ready Jet Go! along with a new science version of the PBS KIDS for Parents Play & Learn app and innovative short form videos from The Ruff Ruffman Show. PBS KIDS also launched two Ready To Learn series: Molly of Denali, focused on informational text literacy, and Elinor Wonders Why, focused on scientific inquiry. CPB and PBS leveraged this content by developing personalized and adaptive learning experiences for children and supports for parents, caregivers and educators. Local PBS stations and community partners around the country used this content and related resources in the neighborhoods that need them most. Independent evaluations of the project's major media properties demonstrated that children learn the targeted knowledge and skills from the presented content. Recent data from the CPB-PBS Ready To Learn Initiative indicates that 15 million children watch RTL-funded science television content, and 19 million children use STEM games and mobile apps. The Ready To Learn Initiative: Improving Children’s Science and Literacy Learning Through the Power of Public Media summarizes the accomplishments of the CPB-PBS Ready To Learn Initiative (2015-2020). Further information and links to content and research reports can be found on PBS LearningMedia.
The 2015-2020 Ready To Learn grant supports the development of two new multiplatform series:
Molly of Denali, produced by WGBH Boston with animation collaborators at Atomic Cartoons for PBS KIDS, centers on Alaska Native Molly Mabray, a feisty and resourceful 10-year-old who brings viewers along for adventures in America’s 49th state. With a curriculum grounded in informational text, Molly of Denali also emphasizes family and intergenerational relationships and Alaska Native values. Ready To Learn is funding 38 half-hour episodes, a one-hour special, a digital app, online games, and hands-on resources for children ages 4-8, families, and educators.
Elinor Wonders Why, created by Jorge Cham and Daniel Whiteson and produced in partnership with Pipeline Studios, will launch on PBS KIDS in September 2020. Elinor, the most observant and curious bunny rabbit in Animal Town, will introduce children ages 3-5 to science, nature and community through the adventures with her friends. Ready To Learn is funding 40 half-hour episodes, digital games, and hands-on resources for kids, families, and educators.
The 2015-2020 grant also supports new episodes, games, and resources for existing properties and familiar characters on PBS KIDS:
- Ready Jet Go! Ready To Learn funded 40 new episodes (including the one-hour special,“Back to Bortron 7), two digital apps (Jet’s Bot Builder and Space Scouts), and two engagement resources (PBS KIDS Family & Community Learning and Space Scouts Camp). Produced by Wind Dancer Films, the property introduces children ages 4-8 to new adventures of Jet Propulsion and his group of friends, who explore the solar system to learn about Earth and space science, and engineering and technology.
- The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That! Ready To Learn funded 40 new episodes, The Cat in the Hat Builds That! app, and a PBS KIDS Family & Community Learning series. Produced by Portfolio Entertainment, the property models early science and engineering concepts and practices for children ages 3-5.
- The Ruff Ruffman Show. Ready To Learn supported the launch of an online series with corresponding online games, the Photo Stuff with Ruff app, and two engagement resources (PBS KIDS Family & Community Learning and Sensational Science Camp). Produced by WGBH, these YouTube-inspired short form videos introduce children ages 4-8 to core science concepts and the science inquiry process.
- PBS KIDS for Parents Play and Learn Science App. Ready To Learn funded the newest version of the Play and Learn app (featuring 15 engaging games covering core topics in Earth Science, Physical Science, and Life Science) and a PBS KIDS Family & Community Learning series to encourage families to explore science together.
EDC and SRI International continue to show positive gains not only for children, but also for their families and educators, and public media station communities.
- The efficacy of digital media resources in improving children’s ability to use informational text: An evaluation of Molly of Denali from PBS KIDS (2021, EDC & SRI). Access to the Molly of Denali resources improved children’s ability to use informational text to solve real-world problems (Summary Report).
- Strategies for Success in Community partnerships: Case Studies of Community Collaboratives for Early learning and Media (2020, EDC & SRI). A cross-case analysis of six case studies of Community Collaboratives for Early Learning and Media places case study findings in the context of overall evaluation findings. (Executive Summary).
- Early Learning & Engineering: The Impact of The Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That! on Learning (2019, EDC & SRI). Preschool children living in low-income households learned critical science and engineering concepts and practices from The Cat in the Hat media.
- Community Collaboratives for Early Learning & Media: A National Picture of CC-ELM Results, 2017-2018 (2019, EDC & SRI). Nearly all parents who participated in Community Collaborative programs feel more confident about helping their children learn science and want to spend more time each week helping their children learn at home.
- Ready To Learn Research: What Parents Talk About When They Talk About Learning: A National Survey About Young Children and Science (2018, EDC & SRI). Nearly all parents want to be involved in their children’s education, but most are less likely to feel confident teaching their young children science than reading, writing or math. (Executive Summary and Infographic).
- Ready To Learn Research: PBS KIDS ScratchJr Family Creative Learning Workshop Implementation Study (2017, EDC & SRI). The workshop boosted parents and children’s interest in and learning of technology and coding (Report Highlights).
2010-2015: Expanded Learning Through Transmedia Content
Between 2010-2015, CPB and PBS collaborated with numerous partners to produce, evaluate, and disseminate a collection of evidence-based educational media and learning resources to advance the math and literacy skills of young children, particularly those in low-income communities.
- A Preschool Math Property, PEG + CAT – Peg and Cat use math and problem-solving skills to save the day. In 2015, PEG + CAT reached 11 million children on television and 12 million users digitally.
- An Elementary Math Property, ODD SQUAD – Young agents are presented with a unique math problem that they must solve together through teamwork, critical thinking, and related math skills and practices. In 2015, ODD SQUAD reached 10 million children on television and 20 million users digitally.
- Transmedia Game Collections and Apps – These integrated collections of interactive content and games feature over 135 new games and mobile apps based on characters and storylines from popular PBS KIDS series such as Curious George, The Cat In The Hat Knows A Lot About That, Cyberchase, Dinosaur Train,Martha Speaks, Sid the Science Kid, Super WHY!, and others.
- The Electric Company Immersive World – The project developed a web and mobile-enabled immersive world called Prankster Planet to extend the math and literacy impact of The Electric Company. A wide range of resources, both in-school and out-of-school, were also created to support summer learning, bilingual education, and more.
- Technology Innovations to Empower Parents and Educators – The project built and tested Measure Up!, a cutting-edge learning analytics platform that captures data from children’s real-time gameplay to help parents chart their child’s progress and receive recommendations for ways to further support their children’s learning.
- Learning Resources and Community Engagement – Through collaboration with local public media stations and their partners, CPB and PBS scaled the usage of RTL content and tools across the country with parents, caregivers, and teachers who work with target audience children. Tools featured PBS KIDS Lab, the PBS KIDS Play and Learn app, RTL’s Mobile Learning Program, Teaching Tips modules and videos, as well as PBS KIDS Afterschool and Summer Adventures. and more.
RTL math and literacy content is rigorously tested and evaluated at every phase of development and implementation by experts to assess its impact on children’s learning. More than 100 research and evaluation studies completed since 2005 show that this content engages children and enhances their early learning skills, and that children can make significant academic gains when taught through a combination of media.
- Supporting Parent-Child Experiences with PEG+CAT Early Math Concepts (EDC & SRI, 2015). This randomized RTL study found that children who used media content from PBS KIDS’ series PEG + CAT showed improvement in critical math areas involving ordinal numbers, spatial relationships, and 3-D shapes. Parents and caregivers also showed greater comfort and confidence in supporting their children with math concepts and problem-solving strategies.
- ODD SQUAD: Learning Math with PBS KIDS Transmedia Content at School and Home (2015, WestEd): Use of ODD SQUAD resources was shown to improve elementary-age students’ mathematics learning.
- Learning with PBS KIDS: A Study of Family Engagement and Early Mathematics Achievement, (2015, WestEd) PBS KIDS resources, coupled with family engagement, can help narrow the math achievement gap for children from low-income families and better prepare them for kindergarten.
- PEG + CAT Content Study (2014, ED/SRI): PEG + CAT resources were shown to improve children’s learning and engagement and were viewed favorably by parents.
- PBS KIDS Mathematics Transmedia Suites in Preschool Families and Communities (2013, WestEd): Children’s math scores improved and parents increased their support of children’s math learning while using Ready To Learn content.
- Preschool Teachers Can Use a PBS KIDS Transmedia Curriculum Supplement to Support Young Children’s Mathematics Learning (2013, Pasnik & Llorente): Results of a randomized controlled trial indicate that Ready To Learn content improved children’s understanding of early math, and increased educator content knowledge.
- Evaluation of The Electric Company Summer Learning Program (2011, WestEd): Students made significant gains in math, vocabulary, numeracy and phonics skills.
2005-2010: Improving and Measuring Children’s Literacy
Ready To Learn Grant Awards 2005-2010
US Department of Education Disclaimer
The contents of this website were developed under a grant from the Department of Education. However, those contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government. The project is funded by a Ready To Learn grant (PR/AWARD No. U295A150003, CFDA No. 84.295A) provided by the Department of Education to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.