The latest Common Sense Media report shared that 75% of Black parents felt it is important that their kids see people of their ethnicity-race in kid’s media (2021). Still, white characters made up 65% of human characters on kids TV in 2017 (Center for Scholars and Storytellers, 2019). In addition, our region’s literacy outcomes are critically inequitable—with 75% of St. Louis Black third graders not reading on grade level compared to 35% of their white peers (St. Louis American, 2022). Diverse, highly engaging content has the power to improve school proficiency. For example, kids who read comics are more likely to read a full grade level higher than other children (Krashen, 2004).
To address this gap in content and literacy, Nine PBS partnered with Oscar-winning, Black-led, and local studio, Lion Forge Animation, to develop the Drawn In Pilot Initiative featuring animated shorts, comics, web experiences, and community sessions for kids ages 5-8 to improve grade-level fluency.
Drawn In is a series of epic adventure stories set in a bustling Midwest city, following four BIPOC kids—Tyler Agbani, Nevaeh Campbell, Jadyn Harris, and Yeong-Ja “Grace” Park—who love comic books. In every episode and comic, their real world collides with characters from the comic world, and the kids must catch and restore them to save the city from cartoon mayhem.
Drawn In is unique for its community-based approach, implementing our Model for Community Engagement. As part of this continual feedback loop, St. Louis families, educators, and community leaders review scripts and character renderings, and offer input that has resulted in character and setting design changes. As such, Drawn In reflects a story unique to St. Louis that will resonate with communities nationwide.
Our Literacy Power Hour series has already begun to see impact in the community. Held over eight weeks in partnership with four community sites serving BIPOC families and low-income neighborhoods, the series has engaged 39 families and 53 kids around Drawn In comics to create their own stories. As a result, 82% of caregivers agreed that the series helped them learn about their children, and 84% of children reported being excited to watch future Drawn In episodes.
With Drawn In, Nine PBS has created a model for co-developing culturally responsive and diversely representative content in a way that champions community strengths and empowers families and educators as co-creators of the content they want to see.