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TV Reading Series To Help Children Retain Skills

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Development of a pilot program for a television series designed to help small children retain their reading skills over the "transitional summers" between the first few grades of school will begin this fall with support from the Kellogg Company and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Tentatively called "Reading Rainbow," the program will try to fill what educators call the "common sense need" for a method that helps children retain some of their reading skills over the summer months.

The pilot project will be a collaborative effort of Great Plains National, an instructional television library in Lincoln, Neb., and wned-tv in Buffalo, N.Y.

Reading and Writing

"Reading Rainbow" is intended to keep children interested in reading and writing over the summer in several ways, according to Twila C. Liggett of the instructional-TV group. They will be read to, encouraged to write letters and messages, given lessons in phonics and word recognition, and encouraged to use the library frequently as part of workbook assignments that go with the show.

One parent whose child participated in an interim program last summer said, "This program has made my child open a book and make some effort to read, something he wouldn't even make an effort to do before."

That the problem of retaining reading skills is a real one has been confirmed by several recent studies.

Research conducted in 1977 by the Stanford Research Institute demonstrated that while fall-to-spring test scores of children showed reading gains, the gains disappeared in fall-to-fall testing. The Stanford researchers labeled it "summer loss phenomenon."

The need has also long been recognized based on teachers' observations, says Ms. Liggett. And, in fact, "Reading Rainbow" would not be the first television program with the goal of improving reading-skills retention.

In response to the experiences of teachers and reading specialists during the 1960's that indicated significant loss in reading skills over summer months, the Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corporation in Indiana developed "Ride The Reading Rocket," a series first broadcast in 1973 and generally considered successful in helping children retain their reading skills.

Reading Skills Retained

In 1976, Allen Lichtenstein, an education researcher then at Florida State University, surveyed parents of two groups of children--those who regularly watched the show and those who did not. About 76 percent of the children who watched regularly retained reading skills. Their parents reported better retention than did parents of children who did not watch the program regularly.

In a more formal study in 1979, Mr. Lichtenstein, who by then had moved to the State University of New York at Buffalo, found that students who used the "Ride The Reading Rocket" series over the summer were much more likely to retain their reading skills than those who did not.

But the production techniques used in segments of "Ride The Reading Rocket" are now considered so out-of-date that there has been an 80 percent drop in requests for the series over the past three years.

For further information on the program, contact Great Plains National, Box 80669, Lincoln, Neb. 68501, or call (402) 472-2007.

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