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Making a Difference: A Family’s Ties to PBS KIDS

Kendra Thacker-Dickinson posed as a group with her husband and five children on a sidewalk in front of their house.
Thacker-Dickinson Family

With the pandemic causing families to spend more time at home, it stands to reason their collective TV watching has gone up.

For a mother of five children, that normally might be a concern.

But Kendra Thacker-Dickinson, whose children range in age from five to 16, says she feels a whole a lot better about it thanks to PBS KIDS.

“My husband and I don’t have a problem with our children watching TV, but we do take care to monitor what they watch,” Thacker-Dickinson said. “When they’re watching PBS KIDS, we know they’re watching a good program that doesn’t have anything vulgar. And the shows are not only educational but also a lot of fun.”

Her household got rid of cable years ago, instead opting to watch television through YouTube TV. And Thacker-Dickinson said she was thrilled to discover the subscription service carries KET and PBS KIDS, both staples in her family before they cut the cord.

“KET has been in our household for a really long time,” Thacker-Dickinson said. “My eldest child got hooked on Arthur as a toddler. And when her siblings came along, they all of course wanted to do what their big sister was doing, so they all got hooked, too.”

Thacker-Dickinson said she grew up watching Sesame Street. And she credits the program for teaching her letters and numbers, something today’s programs continue to make a focal point. These days, her younger children gravitate to Arthur and Super WHY! as well as Dinosaur Train and Curious George. And she and all her children will often pile onto her bed to watch together.

“The great thing about the PBS KIDS programs is that my kids learn without really realizing that they’re learning,” Thacker-Dickinson said. “It makes me laugh, but it makes sense. If you were a child, who would you rather have trying to get you to read, write and spell — me or a cartoon character who’s also a lot of fun?”

Thacker-Dickinson, who works as a financial service representative for Commonwealth Credit Union in Frankfort, said KET’s children’s programs have helped plant a love of learning in her children early on — something that paid dividends when they entered their school years.

“Just the fact that my kids learned so much before they went to kindergarten — they could read books, spell their names and knew all their letters — that gave them such a great start,” she said. “And my kids all ended up really liking school, so I do think it contributed to that.”

She said she also appreciates how these programs celebrate diversity, showing characters of all different stripes and colors, and feature storylines that touch on aspects of emotional development.

A recent Arthur episode, for instance, featured an angry bully, prompting the other characters to consider how they might work together to best resolve the problem amicably.

“My kids are very emotional,” Thacker-Dickinson said. “So it’s nice that the shows teach them how to be friends with someone or how to react when someone’s not nice to you. My kids take it all in. They’re learning how to develop relationships. And it gives them a sense for how you’re supposed to treat other people and how you can relate to them.”

Thacker-Dickinson’s household is a musical one — every child either sings, dances or plays an instrument. And that means a lot of the PBS KIDS songs get sung on repeat around the house, even by her youngest child, five-year-old Johnathan.

“Sometimes they even catch on to what’s happening; they’ll pause and go ‘Oh, we’re learning.’” she said. “But they don’t mind because they’re having fun.”