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Angela C. Santomero and Samantha Freeman Alpert are the creators of SUPER WHY, the new preschool literacy program from PBS KIDS. Read more »
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Finn from Baton Rouge, LA, asks:
Why did you decide to make the fairytale characters superheroes?
SUPER WHY offers fun, interactive twists on classic fairytales, many of which preschoolers already know and love. We created the Super Readers to be positive role models-- by imitating Super Why and his friends, young children practice their alphabet, rhyming, spelling and reading skills--all while helping to save the day! Really, what better way to empower kids to read than by giving a superhero awesome literacy powers? Moreover, given that most of the superhero characters today target older kids, we felt strongly that it was important to introduce safe, age-appropriate heroes for smaller children.
Angie from Haysville, KS, writes:
My four-year-old loves SUPER WHY! He is recognizing more letters since watching the few episodes he has seen, I've seen other positive developments as well. However, I want my children to learn these classic stories correctly. Instead of changing the story, could the life lesson/application be discussed at the end of the story?
Thank you for your feedback--we're glad that your son enjoys SUPER WHY. There are several reasons why the show incorporates fractured fairytales. We want to encourage preschoolers to think creatively and learn that there are lots of answers to life's challenges available within the pages of books. In addition, based on extensive developmental research on SUPER WHY with kids, parents and teachers, we identified a need to make the classic tales more appropriate for this age group. We found that young viewers who already know the fairytales find our new spin humorous while those unfamiliar with the classic tales enjoy our introduction to the stories. Also, our hope is that parents will watch the show with their kids and use the episodes as a springboard to reading and discussing the stories together. We have already gotten feedback that some children have been so inspired by SUPER WHY that they visited the library to look for all of the different versions of the fairytales and then wrote their own stories!
Emily from Silver Spring, MD, writes
My son loves the show. My question is about the use of only upper case letters. Why not use both upper and lower case?
The Out of the Blue in-house research department very carefully developed a lesson plan for SUPER WHY with the aid of reading experts and reading teachers. As part of the plan, the first 25 episodes will explore upper case letters, followed by a showcase of lower case letters in the next 25 episodes, while the remaining shows in the series will feature a mixture of both upper and lower case letters. In this way, we can effectively build a child's literacy skills over time.
Nicole from Olive Branch, MS, writes:
My three-year-old son is very close to reading, I think. He knows all his letters and their sounds without hesitation. He can sound out a word, but he doesn't seem to understand that the sounds are making a word. We'll sound out C - A - T, and say it faster and faster together, and he's still not getting that it's the word cat. Is there anything I can do to make this come together for him, or will it just finally click in his head one day?
This is a great question! Preschoolers are very visual and literal little people who like to "see" the meaning behind every word. To help reading "click" with young children, the SUPER WHY approach is to always show the word in context of its meaning. For example, when Princess Presto spells cat, she labels each letter while showing the letter, then she invites viewers to sound out the letters with her to reveal an actual cat! All of these things together make reading a much more visual experience and can help children start making connections on their own through the ability to see the pictures in their own heads.
Tara from Clifton Park, NY, asks:
Why are the morals of the fairytale stories that are used changed? For example, today it was the Boy Who Cried Wolf. The moral of the story is not to lie so that when you need to be believed, you will be believed. The story was changed to that the boy actually did see a wolf when he cried wolf, but the parents timing was off. It totally misses the whole point of the story's moral.
You are right that with this episode the original moral of the story was changed. One overall goal of SUPER WHY is to explore well-known stories from different points of view. Our research with kids helps us understand what aspects of the tales they are most curious or excited about. In this particular show, we delved into the question "What if the boy really did see a wolf and the grown-up just didn't believe him?" Our writers approached the fairytale from the boy's point of view. In this way, the story became centered around the boy being the hero and the grown-ups needing to learn to trust him, rather than about the boy lying. (By the way, an upcoming "Pinocchio" episode does deal with the consequences of lying.) In general, most SUPER WHY episodes work to retain the core of the original tale, while adding some fun and surprising twists. The "Boy Who Cried Wolf" show was more of departure than most SUPER WHY stories. We certainly appreciate your point of view and may do another version in the future where we tell the original tale and moral.
Andrea from Gilbert, AZ, writes:
I have a five-year-old son, who just started Kindergarten this year. He shows very little intrest in learning his letters. We have tried many different things to get him interested in letters at home and school. It seems to just make him frustrated even when we try to make it relaxed and fun. How much time should a five-year-old spend each day before or after school practicing his letters? Do you have any suggestions what we could try to get him more interested?
Thank you for writing to us! We created SUPER WHY just for that reason--we wanted to make learning your letters as fun and interesting as possible! In every episode there are literacy adventures and games that will give your son the opportunity to practice his reading skills in an exciting, interactive way. You can also use some simple "real world" activities to spark his interest--like searching for letter shapes in everyday objects (for example, looking for a building in the shape of an "L"). Be sure to read together! In addition, when you visit the SUPER WHY website, you'll find special reading games and you can print out our extended activities, all designed to extend the lessons from the show in a fun, playful way. Remember that learning to read is a process and everyone learns at their own rate. And the most important thing is that your son finds reading an enjoyable adventure!
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