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What began as a one-year outreach ended up as a partnership when the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) Kids show "Between the Lions" came to Mississippi back in 2005. With the help of the Barksdale Reading Institute (BRI) and Mississippi Public Broadcasting (MPB), "Between the Lions" is making a difference in young children's literacy in Mississippi and across the nation.

"Between the Lions" is an educational show designed to help preschoolers, kindergartners, and first graders develop early-and crucial-literacy skills, and all while having fun. The show premiered in 2000 as a production of WGBH in Boston, Massachusetts, and Sirius Thinking in New York.

According to series producer Beth Kirsch, of WGBH, the show is unique in its comprehensive approach to teaching reading. "We worked with literacy experts on strategies to target how kids learn to read," she explains.

"People may think of TV as the enemy of getting kids to read, but, actually, TV is a great medium for teaching, because we can use it to illustrate what words do and animate combining sounds. We use humor, music, and activity to enhance the learning process."

As the show grew in popularity and effectiveness, producers began looking for outreach opportunities. When the show came to Mississippi in 2005, the producers had planned a one-year, intensive program to work with young children in the state by implementing the "Between the Lions" curriculum for pre-K students.

BRI and MPB proved ideal partners in the effort-so ideal, in fact, that "Between the Lions" is still based in Mississippi. All studio production and editing happens at the MPB studio, and crews filmed new episodes here as recently as February.

BRI became the key to implementing the "Between the Lions" curriculum in the state. The organization works in 15 schools around the state to improve the reading skills of students in kindergarten through second grade by providing coaches and reading instructors in the schools. Naturally, their mission and ongoing work dovetailed with the "Between the Lions" project.

Claiborne Barksdale, chief executive officer of BRI, says that when the producers approached him about implementing the curriculum, he told them "we would be interested but that it would not suffice simply to have the program distributed to pre-K centers. There has to be hands-on mentoring in order to get the centers to incorporate the program and the best practices, so we worked from there."

Barksdale believes the collaboration has resulted in tangible success. "We have received good data showing that the children in the classrooms where this effort has occurred have benefited in the early literacy skills-language and letter recognition and so forth," he reports, adding, "We are continuing to work on the model."

Kirsch says she is pleased with the experiment-turned-partnership and believes it is a longstanding commitment: "Our partnership has been extraordinarily beneficial.

"BRI shares our mission and commitment, and we have learned a lot from their classroom expertise. And MPB brings so much to the project, as well."

For more information on "Between the Lions," see For more information on the Barksdale Reading Institute, see www. And for more information on Mississippi Public Broadcasting, see

Source Citation
McNair, Ann Shivers. "Lions for literacy." Mississippi Magazine Mar.-Apr. 2009: 28. General OneFile. Web. 5 Nov. 2010.
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Gale Document Number:A197489142
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