The Electric Company
Where rap, rhyme, and reading skills help 6- to 9-year-olds bridge the literacy gap.
Here’s a shock to the system: If kids don’t learn to read by the third grade, their education comes to a virtual standstill.
Why? In fourth grade a switch flips, from “learning to read” to “reading to learn,” and if students aren’t fluent readers and writers by that time, they may never catch up to their peers.
Fifty-seven percent of Caucasian, eighty-four percent of African American, eighty-two percent of Hispanic, fifty-one percent of Asian American, and eighty-two percent of Native American fourth graders cannot read past a basic level.1 And as in 1971, when the original version of The Electric Company premiered, low-income children are most at risk — 68 percent of fourth graders from low-income families can’t read proficiently.
So in January 2009, a brand-new, high-energy version of The Electric Company stepped in to bridge the literacy gap, helping 6- to 9-year-olds expand their vocabularies and learn to love reading. The reinvigorated program follows a crew of street-smart friends who dance, sing, and beatbox their way through the literacy challenge of the day. Now in its third exhilarating season, the show has earned numerous awards, including seven Emmys (Outstanding Children’s Series) and two Parents’ Choice Awards.
The Electric Company initiative also includes a website that’s visited by millions of children to watch videos, play phonics games, and even create their own beatboxing experience, and which has received many accolades, such as an Interactive Emmy and the Kidscreen “Best Companion Website” award. There’s also a companion parents-and-educators’ site that includes educational and engaging materials recognized by the Association of Educational Publishers, which, in a recent survey, got rave reviews from 90 percent of teachers.
Since the program re-launched, the cast of The Electric Company has toured over 20 states, connecting with kids in cities that the U.S. Department of Education has identified as having the lowest literacy rates in the country. The show now reaches over 4 million children each month with the tools to read and succeed — in their homes, at schools, and in communities nationwide.2
U.S. Department of Education (Ready-to-Learn), Corporation for Public Broadcasting, American Greetings, and Beaches Resorts
2 Sesame Workshop records: Children 2-11; television broadcast, online & outreach projects.