Ready to Learn

Public Media's Commitment to Early Learning

History & Background

For the past 15 years, with support from Congress, the Ready To Learn initiative has funded an innovative partnership among the U.S. Department of Education, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and PBS in an effort to use the power of television, the Internet, and other media to help millions of young children—particularly children living in poverty—learn the basic reading and math skills they need to succeed in school. Ready To Learn content is free and universally available through local public television stations and PBS. Created by Congress in the early 1990s, Ready To Learn was reauthorized by the No Child Left Behind Act in 2002 and is administered by the Department of Education.

Significant Achievements

In the past round of Ready To Learn from 2005–2010, the U.S. Department of Education challenged CPB, PBS, producers, local stations and other partners to take their children's programming to a whole new level, both on TV and beyond broadcast, to develop groundbreaking content for TV, Web sites, DVDs, computer games, books, magazines, and community outreach programs, and grounding all of that work in the research-based recommendations of the National Reading Panel. During that time, public media has innovated in significant ways. First, by creating new programming, including Martha Speaks, Super WHY!, The Electric Company and Word World, that reflected the latest research on how best to help children ages 2-8 to develop a strong foundation in critical reading skills. Content created through Ready to Learn was broadcast on television, but also expanded to online literacy games, broadband video, E-books, whiteboards and smart phone applications. Nielsen ratings and other research showed that this content was most impactful among young children from low-income families. Specifically, research indicated that the benefits of interacting with this content set low-income children on course to close the achievement gap.

Innovating for the Future — Ready To Learn / 2010–2015

In September 2010, the U.S. Department of Education announced that it would renew its funding for the Ready To Learn initiative for another five-year period by awarding grants to CPB-PBS in Washington, DC, WTTW/Chicago in partnership with Wildbrain Entertainment, and the Hispanic Information and Telecommunications Network, Inc. (HITN) based in New York.

Through this support, CPB and PBS will continue to deliver innovative, high-quality transmedia content to improve the math and literacy skills of high need children, ages 2-8 via the Internet, broadcast television, and other dynamic new technologies. Our initiative called "Expanded Learning Through Transmedia Content" will:

  • Align all content with academic standards, and develop new pre-K and early elementary curriculum frameworks for mathematics and literacy;
  • Create new children's mathematics properties and enhance existing literacy content;
  • Pioneer new styles and methods of gaming, including multiplatform gaming suites, augmented reality, 3D-rendered multiplayer games, and an immersive game;
  • Design dynamic new tools for educators and families that aggregate and customize resources as well as monitor children's progress;
  • Engage leading national partners in the development and deployment of educational resources to children and communities most in need;
  • Enlist public television stations and community partners in year-round, on-the-ground efforts to test and implement new resources and methods to benefit young children, families, and educators in school and out-of-school settings.
  • Conduct extensive research on and evaluation of the design and learning impacts of media content as well as the overall effort to pave the way for even more effective programs in the future.

Moreover, during the next five years, the Ready To Learn initiative will push hard at the frontiers of educational technology. CPB and PBS will capitalize on their philosophy that "Every new technology is an opportunity to learn."