While the long-term effects of television viewing in the early years are often up for debate, pediatricians and researchers can agree that young children who watch television need supervision and guidelines for the amount of television to which they are exposed and the types of shows they can access. Young children are constantly in the process of developing their ability to understand information and make sense of what is real and what is pretend. Exposing children to developmentally inappropriate information and images on television can leave them feeling confused, frightened or upset. This is why choosing appropriate television shows for your children is a critical element of their development. The good news is, watching developmentally appropriate programming with your children can have many positive benefits (bonding between caregiver and child, the introduction of new vocabulary words, exploring new places together, etc.). Thankfully, there are lots of exceptional television shows for young children that are fun and engaging and that can help children build their early literacy skills along the way.
To make finding shows easier for you (and to help visiting grandparents, babysitters and friends) you might consider printing out local show times of your favorite shows and leaving them near the family television for easy access. In addition, all of the shows we recommend have companion websites that you can visit with your child. These websites are stocked with free games, learning activities, songs and additional information on your favorite characters and programs. Posting the website addresses near the family computer will help ensure that fun and learning continues after the television is turned off. Below you'll find a few of our favorite shows.
64 Zoo Lane
64 Zoo Lane is an animated series developed to introduce children to new vocabulary and foster a love of language through interesting characters and storytelling. Developed for children ages four to six, this program provides children and adults with many opportunities to explore how language is used and uses problem-solving techniques to explore new vocabulary. Each 30-minute episode takes the viewers along as the main character, Lucy, visits her neighborhood zoo after hours, when all the animals are eager to share their stories.
Between the Lions
Since its launch, Between the Lions has been embraced by young children, educators and parents as a playful spot to build literacy skills. Developed by several members of the original creative team of Sesame Street, Between the Lions is designed to foster literacy skills in young children between four and seven years old. Based on a family of lions who live in a library, this show gives children many of the experiences they need to be successful readers when they enter school.
Each 30-minute show revolves around the cast of characters in the library as they discover the power and pleasure connected to reading and storytelling. The show introduces early literacy elements like the sounds letters make and rhyming as well as fluency, sight words and early phonics. Between the Lions is broadcast through your local PBS stations. In addition, the Between the Lions website is a great place to visit with your child to practice early literacy skills. On the Between the Lions web site you'll find early literacy games, past episodes, curriculum information for educators and caregivers as well as learning activities.
Jack’s Big Music Show
Jack’s Big Music Show was developed to help children develop an appreciation for the music and sounds that surround them. How does music appreciation connect to early literacy skill development? When children learn about music, they’re also picking up vital skills that will assist them in their early literacy skill development. Understanding of music principles helps children learn to develop their listening skills, learn new vocabulary, identify rhyming sounds and repetition and differentiate environmental sounds - all skills that are crucial to early literacy development. Each 30-minute program walks children ages three to six year olds through Jack’s world of music-loving friends and neighbors in his backyard clubhouse. Tune in to get your preschooler up and moving as well as learning about music and sounds.
This show is broadcast on Nick Jr. Visit Jack’s Big Music Show Web site to learn more about this show and connect with show-specific activities and games. This channel is available on digital cable and satellite networks across the country; check your provider for local times.