Making a Difference:
Children’s Programming


He said, ‘I know S-H makes the shhh sound.’ I asked him how he knew that, and he said he learned about it on Word World.

Laura Richardson

McCracken County

You might be unaware of this, but not only is Curious George a Kentucky resident, he lives down the road from the Richardson family just outside of West Paducah.

Just ask Wyatt Richardson, the lively 5-year-old son of Laura Richardson, who relies on KET’s children’s programs to provide both entertainment and education to her active and inquisitive preschooler.

“He really likes Curious George,” said Richardson, who with her husband, Casey, recently returned to her native McCracken County after living in Bowling Green and Elizabethtown. “When you pass the gas station and get on Highway 62, there’s a house directly on your right—and he says that’s where Curious George lives.”

But while Richardson, an elementary school teacher currently staying at home with her two young sons, enjoys the imaginative play PBS programs spark in her son, what she really appreciates is the educational content.

“I absolutely love Word World. It’s just fabulous; the whole concept is just wonderful,” she said. ”My son watches it and I know he’s learned from it. (We have a) map of ‘Word World’ and he was learning to spell, so he could see the word ‘mountain’ and recognize it.”

The series, aimed at preschoolers, features “WordFriends,” who are both characters and words. They invite children to join them on comic adventures, where problems can only be resolved by “building” the right word.

“I think that Word World makes him excited to spell words,” she added. “He relates to the concepts of Word World very well; they have a lot of farm-type stuff, and I think all kids relate to that. It’s not gender-specific.”

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And that’s not just a conscientious mom talking. Richardson has specialized training in elementary reading and writing, and testifies to the soundness of the series’ instructional component.

“One day we were working on spelling words. I had not discussed blends with him, and he said, ‘I know S-H makes the shhh sound.’ I asked him how he knew that, and he said he learned about it on Word World.

Another of Wyatt’s favorites is Martha Speaks, a series based on the best-selling books by Susan Meddaugh. It follows the adventures of a loveable pooch whose appetite for alphabet soup gives her the ability to speak. “He talks a lot about Martha Speaks,” she said. “He’s very imaginative, but he’s also very realistic, so it’s kind of far-fetched for him to say this—but he’ll tell me we’re going to get some alphabet soup to give to the dog so that the dog can talk,” she said with a laugh.

While educational content is important to the Richardson family, the values imparted by programs on the KET children’s schedule resonate with them as well.

Clifford the Big Red Dog always has great morals and lessons to learn,” she said.

“What I like, is that I can turn on KET and feel comfortable that we’re not going to hear the word ‘stupid’ and people aren’t being mean. If there is a bully on there, then that’s what the show is about and it addresses it. There’s not the disrespect that I feel like is on (other networks).”

While Wyatt’s young brother, Westen, is still too young to be very interested in television, Richardson feels confident that KET will provide both children with safe viewing experiences for years to come.

“There’s not another station I can turn on and let my children watch and not feel like I have to scrutinize everything,” she said.