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Mississippi Public Broadcasting, Entergy, and Public Libraries boosting literacy with Between the Lions

JACKSON—Mississippi’s largest energy company, Entergy, is teaming up with the Foundation for Public Broadcasting in Mississippi (Foundation), Mississippi Public Broadcasting (MPB), and Mississippi’s public libraries to power up literacy in pre-kindergarten children statewide. The Between the Lions Preschool Literacy Library Project places the scientifically-based reading research curriculum of the seven-time Emmy® Award-winning PBS KIDS series into 17 public libraries this fall, making these libraries a key community tool in teaching pre-kindergarten children ages three to five years old.

Margaret Reed Crosby Memorial Library is pleased to announce its partnership with Mississippi Public Broadcasting to bring the Between the Lions Preschool Literacy Library Project to the children of our community. Children between the ages of 3 and 6 are invited to join Miss Sylvia and the Lion family for Story Hour at Crosby Memorial Library on Fridays Sept. 21 through Nov. 9 from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m.

“This project helps put into action a commitment made last year by Entergy to increase support of education in Mississippi through private partnerships,” said Carolyn Shanks, president of Entergy Mississippi. “Now, more than ever before, Mississippians must come together in developing solutions that improve our state’s educational system. It is clear that our economic future depends on it.”

Entergy awarded the Foundation with a $50,000 Destination Education grant to help introduce three-, four- and five-year-old children to the concepts of print, language and communication with the help of video segments from Between the Lions, along with books, poems, songs and activities. Mississippi libraries will use these tools in special story and activity hours.

“Entergy’s financial commitment to this literacy project combined with the commitment from several organizations will expand this project into an additional 17 public libraries by the end of the year,” said Ty Warren, Foundation Executive Director. “We look forward to expanding this program statewide with the support of Entergy and others who value education opportunities for all Mississippians.”

The goal is to bring these literacy building tools to as many of the state’s 240 public libraries as possible over the next three years.

“Public libraries have always taken their role in the education of Mississippi’s children very seriously,” said Sharman Smith, executive director of the Mississippi Library Commission. “This partnership provides the perfect vehicle for strengthening the reading/learning skills of young children. Between the Lions will add a new dimension to public library programming for pre-kindergarten children.”

“We have always had a vibrant, active children’s program at Crosby Memorial Library, and we look forward to increasing our effectiveness in the community by using Between the Lions to enhance our program and enrich the learning process of children who are beginning to read,” stated Linda Tufaro, director of the Pear River County Library System.

The Between the Lions Preschool Literacy Library Project is an expansion to the already proven successful Between the Lions Preschool Literacy Initiative. This child care program, over two years strong, began soon after MPB partnered in 2004 with WGBH of Boston and Sirius Thinking, Ltd. of New York to produce the Between the Lions children’s television series in MPB’s Jackson studios.

“Both the child care and library programs are our way of being a part of the solution in creating statewide literacy opportunities for Mississippi’s earliest learner,” said Marie Antoon, executive director of MPB. “We are most appreciative of our partners and their shared vision in coming together to reach more children in each of the communities across the state.”

MPB’s early childhood initiatives and commitment to education were recently recognized by PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). MPB was one of the first five public broadcasting stations nationwide to be awarded a five-year grant totaling $200,000 as part of the PBS KIDS Ready to Learn® national literacy initiative.

“Mississippi Public Broadcasting has consistently broken ground in innovative ways to take our proven children’s television literacy program, Between the Lions, and make it accessible to teachers, parents, caregivers, and children,” said Jayne W. James, Ed.D., executive director of CPB Ready to Learn®. “We were excited to award MPB with one of the first five national Ready to Learn® grants, and are thrilled with the real reading skills development Mississippi children are receiving as a result.”

Research findings for the 2005-2006 school year concluded that the literacy environment of the Between the Lions participating classrooms improved dramatically as a result of their involvement in the project – as much as 58 to 100 percent – including significant gains in letter knowledge, the conventions of reading (left to right, top to bottom, front to back), comprehension that builds their vocabulary, and improvements in the classroom that promote learning as fun and exciting. The findings are stated in the University of Mississippi Study using the Early Language Literacy and Classroom Observation (ELLCO) measurement

Through the Between the Lions Preschool Literacy Initiative, MPB provides resources, expertise, and encouragement to 51 child care centers in the Jackson area affecting 1,114 children with the help of its partners – WGBH, Sirius Thinking Ltd, Mississippi Public Broadcasting, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, U. S. Department of Education, and Barksdale Reading Institute.

Serving as mentors, MPB learning specialists model teaching methods and provide books, materials, and an early reading skills curriculum of the Between the Lions series to the child care center directors and teachers.

While the initial phase of this project includes 17 public libraries, the Mississippi Federation of Women’s Clubs (MFWC) is helping spread the word about this valuable program. MFWC members are serving as volunteers to assist public library staff with special Between the Lions story hours and activities, and have created an Adopt-A-Library project aimed at raising additional funds to bring the proven literacy tool to more of the state’s public libraries.

“The MFWC has always supported proven literacy programs and we were convinced through the research that our state’s communities will strengthen as our earliest learners develop their reading skills,” said Judy Martin, state president of the MFWC. “Part of MPB’s value is its wealth of early childhood education initiatives and studies show this early reading skills program produces results.”