Barksdale: Make literacy your mission

Corporate leader and philanthropist James Barksdale, a co-chair of the PBS-appointed Digital Future Initiative, previewed his thinking in a Current commentary seven months before the long-delayed publication of the initiative’s recommendations. See also comments by initiative Co-chair Reed Hundt. In a story that has always held meaning for me, Lewis Carroll’s character Alice came to a fork in the road. Which way do I go? she wondered. The Cheshire Cat beamed down from the tree above her and asked, “Little girl, are you lost?”

“Well, I just want to know which way I should go,” she said.

Target: sitters who could be teachers

KCET in Los Angeles unveiled a multimillion-dollar initiative to help prepare kids for kindergarten by training the adults who care for them. Two new daytime talk series — one produced in English and the other in Spanish — are centerpieces of the project. Through daily broadcasts of A Place of Our Own and Los Ninos in Su Casa, KCET aims to provide skills, information and inspiration to unlicensed caregivers and enlist them in the important work of nurturing early learning skills. These friends, neighbors and relatives of parents often work in isolation and have little access to training. Shaped by input from leading educators and formative research on its target audiences, the station’s education initiative has raised $20 million so far, including the largest grant in KCET’s history—$10 million from the energy company BP.

Seven years in a ‘dynamic environment’

Cecily Truett and Larry Lancit rolled the dice. In the spring of 1991, they took their production company and its best known product, and laid them at the feet of GKN Securities Corp., a small investment firm, which organized the initial public offering of their production company. By then, the Lancits had filled a trophy case with awards as producers of Reading Rainbow. But Lancit Media Productions’ earnings were barely enough to scrape by. It was certainly not enough to expand.

Goal for Ready to Learn: engage kids and parents

On July 11, PBS begins beaming its long-anticipated Ready to Learn service to 11 pilot stations, embarking on what planners acknowledge will be a bumpy journey toward better TV for early childhood learning. What comes off the bird will essentially be an expanded, repackaged version of the existing children’s service that, with the help of new educational break messages, will offer a learning-friendly environment for kids. Off-air, outreach activities will target the audiences most critical to the task of preparing children for school–parents, teachers and child-care providers. The on-air and off-air prongs of public TV’s Ready to Learn strategy are scaled-back versions of proposals that PBS floated at last year’s annual meeting. The estimated $72 million needed to launch a comprehensive national service has not as yet materialized.