War Memorial Auditorium was Elmo’s World on Tuesday, February 10, when the Sesame Street icon teamed up with Tennessee Education Commissioner, Dr. Tim Webb, to Launch PBS KIDS Raising Readers in Nashville. Joining them on the stage were Ron Ramsey, Lieutenant Governor of Tennessee; Nashville Mayor Karl Dean; Beth Curley, President and CEO of NPT, Dave Hinman, General Manager and CEO of WLJT in West Tennessee, and Michael Fragale, Vice President of Education, Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
More than two hundred people, among them Tennessee State legislators and education leaders, and children from the Pre-K program at Paragon Mills elementary school, were introduced to PBS KIDS Raising Readers, an initiative that uses the power of educational media to help meet the urgent literacy needs of kids ages 2-8, especially those from low income families.
NPT, and WLJT in Martin, Tennessee, are two of 20 stations in the nation selected to participate in the exciting literacy initiative. This national project is funded as part of the U.S. Department of Education’s Ready To Learn grant and is managed by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), PBS and The Ready to Learn Partnership, through a cooperative agreement.
Kids entertainer Farmer Jason, aka Jason Ringenberg, kicked off the entertainment portion of the event with a rollicking set that included the NPT-hit “Forest Rhymes,” and a brand new song written just for the occasion, “Raising Readers.” Jason even jumped off the stage into the Pre-K crowd to take some rhyming-words requests. PBS and CPB officials quickly realized that only in Nashville are you going to get a song specially written to celebrate Raising Readers. Consider this a challenge, you other Raising Reader public television stations and towns in America. Think you’ve got a song in you?
After hearing from our guest speakers and watching an informative video on PBS Kids Raising Readers, Commissioner Webb told the audience that “developing a child’s reading ability is the best investment we can make.”
“Reading skills give children a head-start as they begin school and as they continue into college. Programs like Raising Readers complement our efforts already underway with Gov. Bredesen’s Books from Birth and Voluntary Pre-K initiatives.”
To the delight of children and adults (me included), Elmo jumped in to find out what this whole “Raising Readers” thing was all about. He also told Dr. Webb how much he loved Nashville, country music, cowboy boots, reading and playing rhyming games. Dr. Webb and Elmo even played a little rhyming game of their own. It was truly a wonderful moment, ending with Elmo giving the audience a verse of the classic “Elmo’s World.”
The event was made possible with dozens of volunteers, including those from our partners at Books from Birth and Book ’em, students from Glencliff High School, and representatives from all the Public Television stations in Nashville, including WKNO (Memphis), WCTE (Cookeville), ETPtv (Knoxville), WTCI (Chattanooga). Special thanks to WKRN, WSMV and WTVF here in Nashville for coming out and capturing the event.
I’ll be posting plenty of photos from the event in the days ahead. We’ll also be sharing stories and photos of our PBS KIDS Raising Readers outreach activities in the Nashville community throughout the coming year, so please keep an eye on wnpt.org/raisingreaders where we’ll be posting our news. In the meantime, learn more about PBS Kids Raising Readers at pbskids.org/read, where you and your child can sign for the free PBS Kids Island Educational Website.
Remember, anytime is learning time.