Media Tools Boost Literacy

In the classroom, public television shows, such as "Sesame Street" and "Between the Lions," and interactive games help preschool children develop critical literacy skills and better prepares them for kindergarten, according to a new study conducted by Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC) and SRI International. The study analyzed literacy skills in young children, including their ability to name letters, associate sounds with the letters and understand story concepts and printed words.

"Many studies have shown that computer technologies can improve learning for students in kindergarten through grade 12, but using digital media in preschool has been controversial," said lead researcher Shelley Pasnik, director of EDC's Center for Children and Technology.

Commissioned by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), the study examined 398 low-income children in 80 preschool classes in New York City and San Francisco. For 10 weeks, these students, mostly from low-income communities, were taught through active video viewing and hands-on activities with letters, sounds and books. Research collected from January to June of this year found that students using this curriculum increased their literacy skills significantly: The bottom 20 percent of preschoolers in the study learned an average of 7.5 more letters than did children who did not participate.

"We know public media can improve literacy skills when kids watch at home; what we didn't know is that content from multiple shows could be effectively integrated into a curriculum and implemented by teachers," said William Penuel, director of evaluation research for SRI's Center for Technology and Learning. "If media can be harnessed to help close this literacy gap, as this study has shown, it's a powerful new tool for preschool teachers."


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