PBS Kids Island, an online amusement park located on the Raising Readers website (www.readytolearnreading.org), offers learning games created by producers of Super Why!, Word World, Sesame Street and Between the Lions, most collected from their separate sites, grouped by reading skill and divided into three levels of difficulty.
On the cartoony Island, kids can choose games to play from a carousel ride and win tickets they can use to buy things from the prize booth — video downloads, printable games and coloring sheets. In their own tree house, a kid can stash or play with their prizes and display their awards.
Project advisors who work with low-scoring schools eligible for federal Title 1 aid encouraged PBS to give kids the opportunity to choose activities on their own on the Island, because low-income kids don’t get to make many choices or take risks or try experiments, says Sharon Philippart, project director for Raising Readers at PBS.
Parents, teachers or caregivers sign up their kids and can monitor their progress through the levels. For teachers, there are lesson plans for using Sesame Street, Super Why! and Between the Lions in the classroom.
For adults, the site has tips for helping kids read and suggests links to activities such as Word World’s “Going on an O hunt.” It suggests off-line activities that would help kids practice reading-related skills.
Because many parents of kids in Raising Readers’ target audience also have limited reading ability, PBS is working with the Center for Applied Special Technology in Boston to make sure the parents and teachers sections of the Raising Readers website are useful and accessible, says Sara DeWitt, senior director for PBS Kids and PBS Parents interactive.
The network’s kid-testing of the Island continues this summer and fall. PBS will tweak the parents and teachers area — in English and Spanish — and test its accessibility for parents who aren’t native English readers.
Games from the RTL series Martha Speaks and Electric Company will be integrated into Island, and DeWitt expects that PBS will eventually build a second phase targeted toward older kids.