Thursday, March 13, 2003

Extending Student Learning with Ready To Learn

By now you're familiar with Ready To Learn (RTL), public broadcasting's answer to the call to help all children start school with the skills they need to begin their adventures in learning. Did you know that in addition to the millions of children reached nationwide through the broadcasting of the kind of RTL programming you see each weekday on GPB, over 875,000 educators, childcare providers, and parents have participated in RTL-sponsored workshops on using television wisely. These workshops cover developing children's learning skills and preparing children to read.

A recent nationwide study conducted by Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. indicated that these workshops had lasting positive impact on the behavior of parents who attended and their children, including:

• Families read books together 35% more often;
• Families read books for 20% longer periods;
• Children watched 40% less TV;
• Children watched 25% more educational programs that prepared them for school;
• Parents discussed TV programs with children 50% more often; and
• Families made more frequent trips to the library and bookstore.

Here in Georgia, educators and childcare providers can count on the PeachStar Education Services Division of GPB to provide these trainings designed to help reinforce the goals of the Ready To Learn initiative. Laura Miller, GPB's RTL coordinator, travels across the state to share with educators and childcare providers important information they need to know to help their students get ready to learn.

First of all, Laura sets forth the four goals of Ready To Learn: to encourage adults to be selective about the programming children watch on TV; to encourage adults to watch television with children; to encourage adults to extend learning with books and activities that reinforce educational programming; and to show educators and caregivers how public television can be used as a learning tool.

Second, she outlines the services that RTL provides to educators and caregivers, including the broadcast of 12 hours of programming on GPTV; the broadcast of educational messages between programs; workshops and trainings for educators and caregivers; the distribution of the PBS Families magazine and over 300 free books to disadvantaged children each month.

Third, she explains why GPB has chosen to be part of the Ready To Learn initiative and why GPB is such a good venue for the RTL message. GPB's decision to air RTL programming exclusively for our young viewers makes us an obvious choice for educators who are looking for safe educational programming for their students. The GPB broadcast schedule allows for both repetition and variety of messages for children while engaging them in active learning.

Fourth, she explains what Smart TV is and why it's important for you as educators to be sure that your students are watching it. Smart TV is television that teaches as well as entertains. By recognizing and catering to the social, emotional, and cognitive development and skill levels of its audience, Smart TV like Ready To Learn meets the needs of young viewers in ways that traditional children's programming cannot. The benefits of programming like Ready To Learn are many. It inspires children to learn and read while encouraging creativity and developing critical thinking skills. RTL programs encourage children to participate in activities and respond with their own thoughts and feelings. By exposing young viewers to a variety of characters and situations, the programming helps children to appreciate themselves and other cultures and also demonstrates that there are many ways to problem solve without resorting to force or violence.

Fifth, she explains the concept of the Learning Triangle. The three components of the Learning Triangle are View, Read, and Do. When using Smart TV with your students you should plan what to watch (View), select books that highlight the program themes (Read), and plan activities that reinforce the program themes (Do). Each of the Ready To Learn programs that air on GPB have accompanying View and Do activities that can be found online at

Finally, Laura concludes the workshop by sharing additional resources like the PeachStar and PBSkids websites with participants and reminding them to Turn On the Learning by following these seven steps:

• Bring learning off the screen and into real life;
• Plan what to watch;
• Plan activities that reinforce program content;
• Extend learning with books;
• Select books that highlight program themes;
• Make connections; and
• Encourage children to read to you.

If are an early childhood educator, be sure to take advantage of all of the resources that Georgia Public Broadcasting and Ready To Learn have to offer you and your students. Watch GPTV with your students from 6 AM-6 PM weekdays and contact Laura Miller at for more information about RTL trainings in your area.