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Programming, Outreach Included in PBS Initiative

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The Public Broadcasting Service last week launched a major new commitment to helping children prepare for school by offering expanded television programming and greater outreach to parents and child-care providers.

The initiative, known as "PTV, the Ready to Learn Service,'' includes a repackaging of existing children's shows such as "Sesame Street,'' "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood,'' and "Barney and Friends'' into a nine-hour daily programming block that will be tied together with animated vignettes.

Beginning in July, public-television stations in 11 markets will clear most of their daytime schedules of other PBS programming to make way for the children's block. The stations will provide activity books and program guides to parents and other care-givers.

"We want to help children learn how to learn,'' said Jackie Weiss, the director of the project for PBS. "Television is not a substitute for parents, but public television can be a partner with parents and other care-givers to give children the skills they need.''

Influential Teacher

The ready-to-learn initiative has been under consideration ever since a 1992 report by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching called for a separate television channel to help prepare preschoolers to enter school. (See Education Week, July 14, 1993.)

Ernest L. Boyer, the president of the Carnegie Foundation, lauded the PBS effort.

"This is a very reassuring moment,'' he said. "Television, after parents, is the nation's most influential teacher.''

The new service will debut on public-television stations in Atlanta; Boston; Carbondale, Ill.; El Paso; Los Angeles; New York; Oklahoma City; St. Paul; Toledo, Ohio; Washington; and the Georgia public-television network.

An additional 35 markets will be added in January 1995, officials said. PBS has committed about $2 million for the first year of the initiative and is seeking additional corporation donations.

Congress has appropriated $7 million for a "ready to learn'' television service, but those funds will not be available until fall of 1995.

The morning programming block will run from 7 A.M. to noon, with shows aimed at children ages 2 to 5. The afternoon block, from 2 to 6 P.M., will include shows aimed at 6- to 12-year-olds.

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