Super Why? Super Wow


Mentally I keep dividing June into BF (before flu) and AF (after flu), even though those around me keep asking "are you sure you had the flu?" as if I'm being a drama queen about having a fever, stomach cramps and losing all will to live. Sitting up in bed took all of my energy and I couldn't imagine ever having enough strength to actually walk upright into another room. I'm going to keep calling it the flu until medically proven otherwise.

Anyway, one week BF I was invited to a great PBS cocktail get together, despite the fact the cocktails and PBS kid's programming don't always go together unless you are my friend Lisa who says Elmo's portion of Sesame Street is much more tolerable when accompanied by wine. She even goes as far to say that the cartoon portion with the gravely voiced woman (I always think lesbian P.E. teacher) is quite funny after a few sips of wine. So for some people PBS and alcohol have always pared well together.

The night was to talk about Super Why! and also to expose that I don't watch my kids' television shows very closely…or at least that's what was obvious when they explained the main characters in the show come from children's literature. I never caught on that Wyatt/Super Why is Jack's brother in the Beanstalk family or there's also the littlest of the Three Pigs, Little Red Riding Hood and the princess from the Princess and the Pea. In my defense, I trust PBS children's programming and when I turn on the TV, I start running around the house to get things done during that time. I also try to record everything, which allows me to cut off the closest thing PBS has to commercials, those sponsorship spots at the start of the show, plus by recording the show, the programming ends, rather than blends right into the next show and so on. (On our way to Rocket's first day on summer camp today he said, "I hope Chucky Cheese isn't at my school!" Baffled, I thought "how does he know Chuck E. Cheese?" But soon thought "Damn you PBS!")

What I already knew from my cursory viewing was the Super Why follows a pattern: 1. some sort of socio-emotional drama, a preschool-relatable problem; 2. the characters get into books to find a response to the problem; and 3. the information from the book is applied to resolving the problem. The goal is to "show the power behind words" and when kids learn to read, the gain power – like the characters – and a new world opens up to them.

What I didn't know is that the show doesn't only get kids interested in reading, but it's teaching a problem-solving approach. The University of Pennsylvania (Kevin is a proud Quaker) recently concluded a third party study (not funded by PBS) that for eight weeks followed 106 preschoolers divided into two groups: one watched Super Why and another watched a non-literacy children's program. At the end of the study, the Super Why watchers well outperformed the control group not only in regards to specific literary skills (naming letters, sounds, etc.), but they also scored 46% higher on standardized readings test, which means the kids aren't only memorizing the information, but they are learning a successful strategy for problem solving, according to PBS.

PBS also conducts weeklong reading camps in lower income communities generally where kids are not read to as frequently and preschoolers are less likely to know the letters in their names. The Super Why based curriculum has been so successful that not only will 100 camps around the country be held this summer, but anyone at home can get a small taste of the camp because PBS has decided to run a month of Wonderrific Weeks in August, with each week focusing mainly on one of the Super Why characters and the super power they possess (for instance, Alpha Pig's alphabet power).

I had a chance to meet Angela Santomero, the Super Why creator whose name I actually recognized from the show's credits, which proves I do pay attention to part of it, and Lesli Rotenberg, from PBS. Both were great and left me with even more confidence in PBS and the great deal of thought that goes into the programming. However, the highlight of the night was leaving with backpack from The Electric Company. Clover was thrilled and said it was perfect because she was thinking that the theme for her next birthday party was going to be The Electric Company and we could give out the backpacks as favors. Um, what?


  1. That’s awesome! Doodle would flip his tiny four year old noggin! He loves Super Why!

  2. Great info. I was wondering about Wyatt…I had figured out the rest of the characters. Super Why is one of Bugs favorite shows and has been for some time. :)

  3. Super Why is awesome! It looks great and I’m sure it tasted even better!

  4. I am a fan of Whyaat now after reviewing the episodes of Super Why.It is a great help for kids, solving situations and problems accompanied by wisdom.

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