Whether to use a whole-language approach (learning words through context) or phonics (learning to "decode" letters and syllables) is one of the most contentious questions in education.
"Between the Lions" on PBS has created what it considers a win-win situation. The show incorporates the best of both worlds and manages to keep both sides happy.
"I think there's widespread awareness that you need to do both," says executive producer, Judy Stoia, who points out top experts on each side of the question who were brought in to develop the curriculum.
As for whether children ought to be reading instead of watching TV, Stoia is philosophical. "The issue about why put [these shows] here to learn speaks to what's on TV in general and how much kids watch TV anyway," she says.
The show's creators don't maintain that "Lions" ought to be a primary reading tool, but point out that for many low-income children, this may be a lifeline. "You can't learn to read only by watching us, but it enhances and significantly helps kids who may have no other resources," she adds.
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