Reading & Literacy

From Sesame Street to “Planet 429"

By Sean Cavanagh — December 31, 2008 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

“Sesame Street” has sought for years to help children from all backgrounds develop basic reading skills. Can “Planet 429" help them read and comprehend?

WTTW National Productions, a Chicago-based company, has begun production of a TV show to be titled “Mission to Planet 429,” which, like Sesame Street and other educational-themed programs, will seek to help nurture students’ reading skills as it entertains them.

“Planet 429" is expected to hit the air on PBS about a year from now, targeting 6- to 9-year-olds. The show seems likely to receive an added dose of publicity because of one of the creative minds behind it, in particular: film writer, director, and cinematographer Roman Coppola.

One of the main goals of the program is to use video and multimedia presentations to help students conquer a crucial reading barrier—learning how to comprehend what they read, a challenge students typically confront around 4th grade, said Reese Marcusson, the executive vice-president of WTTW. The show will also be linked with a Web site that seeks to build students’ skills in reading informational text in a number of ways, he added.

The show is supported in part by a Ready to Learn grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement. “Planet 429" is one of four WTTW programs receiving funding through a 5-year grant worth $47.5 million, Marcusson said. About 30 percent of that funding is going toward research and evaluation of each of the programs’ ability to boost students’ reading ability, he added. One of those programs, which is already running on PBS stations, is “WordWorld,” aims to help 3- to 5-year-olds with reading.

The grant’s emphasis on research “gives us the opportunity to test some things and show that it works,” Marcusson explained.

Roman Coppola, as many film buffs know, is the son of acclaimed Hollywood director Francis Ford Coppola (“The Godfather,” “Apocolypse Now,” and my personal favorite, “The Conversation”) and the brother of director Sofia Coppola (“Lost in Translation”). Roman Coppola (I’ve attached a photo) has an extensive resume of his own, having worked in several areas of film making, from writing and directing to sound recording.

The plot of “Mission to Planet 429" is a fantasy that follows the adventures of two intergalactic explorers who get dropped off on earth, a planet about which they have no basic understanding, Marcusson explained. This leads to adventures and comic misunderstandings. The show will be connected to an interactive Web site and multimedia features.

As with other education-themed shows produced by WTTW, the creators of “Planet 429" will develop curriculum for the program, which will include storyboards and animation. The goal is for “Planet 429" to air on PBS and on other stations internationally, Marcusson said. The costs of putting the show together that are not covered by the grant will be supported through private fund-raising, he said.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.

Commenting has been disabled on effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
What’s Next for Teaching and Learning? Key Trends for the New School Year
The past 18 months changed the face of education forever, leaving teachers, students, and families to adapt to unprecedented challenges in teaching and learning. As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Reading & Literacy Spotlight Spotlight on Literacy in Education
In this Spotlight, evaluate the possible gaps your current curriculum may have and gain insights from the front-lines of teaching.
Reading & Literacy Creator of 1619 Project Launching After-School Literacy Program
The 1619 Freedom School, led by journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, will make its curriculum a free online resource in 2022.
4 min read
Collage of an American Flag.
Collage: Laura Baker/Education Week (Images: iStock/Getty)
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Reading & Literacy Whitepaper
Supporting Students With Structured Literacy
Structured Literacy is instruction that’s informed by the science of reading. Read this white paper from Lexia® Learning: Structured Lite...
Content provided by Lexia Learning