Wednesday, September 1, 2010


On the heels of exceptional research results released by the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication*, the Emmy® Award-winning series Between the Lions heads into its 10th anniversary season with many reasons to celebrate!  The study demonstrates that Between the Lions, when combined with teachers who are equipped with curriculum materials and who have received training, has a major impact on preschool literacy skills.  The new season, which addresses a wide variety of letter sounds, vocabulary, and more, roars onto the small screen with 10 new episodes premiering Monday, September 20, on PBS KIDS (check local listings).

The recently-released study indicated that within an experimental group of children exposed to the Between the Lions curriculum, students' letter sound scores, one of the more sophisticated and challenging early literacy skills, improved by nearly 300 percent.

"Ten years ago, Between the Lions was brought to life by producers armed with the goal of addressing the growing problems with reading literacy," said Executive Producer Judy Stoia. "Nothing could be more rewarding than entering our 10th anniversary season with research results that underscore our educational mission and prove that Between the Lions continues to make an impact by successfully teaching key literacy skills to preschoolers."

On screen this season, the lovable lions--Theo, Cleo, Lionel, and Leona--experience new adventures both in and out of the library, where they'll learn all about art and creativity, transportation, animal homes and pets!  In the all-animated premiere episode, "Three More Little Pigs & The Ants and the Grasshopper," Lionel, Leona, and the Wolf each try their hand at writing a sequel to The Three Little Pigs, and Leona finds a way to combine work and play.  And, in the episode "City Mouse and Country Mouse & The Happy Hocky Family Moves to the Country!" famed comedian and television personality Rachel Dratch lends her voice to the narration of a tale about two mice living in two very different worlds.

"It's wonderful to know that in this ever-evolving television landscape, we have continued to make a difference in the world of children's media," said Chris Cerf, Executive Producer for Sirius Thinking, co-creator and co-producer of the series.  "After ten years, we're so proud that Between the Lions continues to uphold the gold standard for children's television while effectively translating its success into the classroom."

"Endless opportunities exist to utilize the series' proven methods to target groups of preschool through pre-kindergarten students in our communities," added Nikki McCelleis, Deputy Executive Director for Education at Mississippi Public Broadcasting, a co-producer of the series.  "We already have plans underway to implement these programs in more classrooms across Mississippi and are eager to see the path of success grow."

New for Public Schools and Libraries: Between the Lions Reading Dens
Just in time for the 10th anniversary season, the series producers, with support from The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, have researched, developed, and scientifically tested Between the Lions Reading Dens.  In these themed "reading nooks," which will be set up in public and school libraries, children can watch Between the Lions, read the storybooks that appear in the episodes, and engage in curriculum-relevant literacy games and activities.  Now available to schools and libraries, thanks to a new partnership with Gressco, Ltd., are adorable tables, stools, and fun-shaped lion chairs; colorful character carpets; and Between the Lions-themed bookcases, book and DVD caddies, and display cases, all designed to draw young readers in for a roaring good time!

New Literacy Books and Products from Between the Lions and Gryphon House
Gryphon House, an award-winning publisher of resource books for parents and teachers of children from birth through age eight, has partnered with Between the Lions to launch a series of books and products that build on the learning philosophy of the program by encouraging a playful approach to teaching children literacy skills. This September, Gryphon House will add to its first title, "What Does a Lion Say? And Other Playful Language Games (May 2010)," with the release of "Lion Letters Card Games," "Wild About Group Time, Simple Literacy Plans for Preschool," and "Wild About Literacy, Fun Games for Preschool."

Multimedia Learning: New Between the Lions iPhone Application and More
Between the Lions' multimedia learning initiative includes the series' award-winning website (  This platform provides teachers and families with literacy resources including episodic curriculum and reading activities for the classroom, downloadable activity pages, and on-the-go games to help children learn to read and write.  New on the Web for the season 10 premiere, help Arty Smartypants match alliterative words (with the same beginning sound) or rhyming words (with the same ending sound).  The words are all hiding behind doors, and it's your job to find them!  And, coming in November, Between the Lions further extends its impact by making available its first-ever iPhone application, bringing the popular "Monkey Match" Web game right into the palm of your hand!

*About the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication Study
In the latest study, conducted during the 2008 - 2009 school year, the Annenberg team looked at reading and literacy skills results for 319 Mississippi preschool children, ranging in age from four to five years. As with a similar analysis during previous school years, children in the experimental groups outperformed their peers in the control group on a variety of measurements, including:

  • Upper Case Letter Identification - students who watched knew 75 percent more letters than those who did not participate in the program.
  • Lower Case Letter Identification - students who participated scored nearly 113 percent higher than their non-participating classmates.
  • Picture naming skills - students who participated in the Between the Lions classroom project were able to identify 20 percent more objects, an index of vocabulary knowledge, compared to their peers who did not participate in the program.

Teachers participating in the classroom intervention were provided with 30 theme-based weekly lessons, copies of the related television programs, supporting books and other resources, including 96 hours of training and mentoring to help them use the educational literacy material.

About Between the Lions
Between the Lions is a multimedia educational initiative created to help children ages three to seven acquire beginning reading skills and a love of reading. Built around a curriculum that incorporates the most recent scientific research in literacy instruction, each episode features an engaging variety of animation, puppetry, live action, and music. The series is part of PBS KIDS Raising Readers, a national reading initiative focused on helping children ages two to eight, especially those from low-income families, to build their reading skills.

Between the Lions is produced by WGBH Boston, Sirius Thinking, Ltd., and Mississippi Public Broadcasting.

Between the Lions is funded in part by The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a cooperative agreement from the U.S. Department of Education's Ready To Learn grant, and by the Barksdale Reading Institute. National corporate funding provided by Chick-fil-A, Inc.


PBS KIDS, for preschoolers, and PBS KIDS GO!, for early elementary school kids, inspire and nurture curiosity and a love of learning in children. PBS offers all children--from every walk of life-- opportunities for exploration and discovery through content on television, mobile devices, new media, the web and community programs. Empowering children for success in school and in life, only PBS KIDS and PBS KIDS GO! have earned the unanimous endorsement of parents, children, industry leaders and teachers. PBS, with its nearly 360 member stations, serves more than 110 million people on TV and nearly 19 million people online each month.

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