My children watch television and I don’t feel guilty about it. My husband and I watch an impressive amount of television. It’s a source of entertainment and education for us all. If chosen carefully, there is great value in today’s children’s programming.
Sesame Street has been the standard for excellence on which all other children’s shows are measured and it continues to be an amazing resource. PBS Kids has several other new valuable shows as well. My favorites include WordGirl, Sid the Science Kid, and Electric Company.
WordGirl features the adventures of Becky Botsford from the Planet Lexicon. She goes about life as an average 5thgrader until she transforms into WordGirl when she needs to fight crime and help others with vocabulary. WordGirl is aided by her monkey sidekick Captain Huggy Face. The villains are also inspired and include The Butcher, Lady Redundant Woman, Granny May, Doctor Two Brains and Chuck the Evil Sandwich Making Guy. Each episode introduces new vocabulary words and uses them in context several times, so that children really do learn to love and appreciate the power of words. PBS has ordered 26 more episodes for fall 2009.
Sid the Science Kid encourages children to investigate the world around them and in the process, introduces children to science. Sid is an inquisitive preschooler and each episode begins with a practical question like, “Why are my shoes shrinking?” Sid learns the answers to these questions through the help of his parents, teacher and friends. Children learn to make sense of the world around them and children continue to ask questions when the show is over.
The Electric Company debuted in January and has been extremely popular. PBS announced it will air episodes daily this fall. It is a remake of its 1970s version and still uses an urban setting and successfully integrates music and dancing in each episode. The Electric Company teaches phonics in those iconic silhouetted faces and the familiar “Hey, you guys!” is also used in each episode. Catchy songs like “Silent E is a Ninga” engage parents and children alike. Similar to Sesame Street, The Electric Company also has impressive celebrity guest appearances on the show including Jimmy Fallon, Wyclef Jean, Common and Tiki Barber.
Given the options today, the commercial–free, highly structured and often witty programs on PBS Kids blow away mind numbing and whiny episodes of Barney, Teletubbies and Caillou. Avoiding the thinly veiled commercial programs gives parents and children guilt free choices for 30 minute respites.