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The Newsstand - What's Hot!


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The Newsstand - What's Hot

Christine Pollock, Newsletter Editor
I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. -George Bernard Shaw


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Turning your TV Time into Quality Time
July 5, 2005 Issue #7
Christine L. Pollock, Editor
Ranny Levy, Publisher
[email protected]

1. Letter from the Editor
Letter from the President
Watch and Create - Crafts and Activities
2. Highlighted Web Store Titles
3. New Endorsements
4. Festival Titles
Member News
6. New Members/Renewing Members
7. Media News
8. Family and Parenting News
9. Cooling Down With Quality Film by Christine L. Pollock
* Permission to forward or reprint the content herein is granted with complete attribution.

Center for Media Literacy Founder, Liz Thoman is interviewed in the January 2005 issue,
click here.

Making Rainbows for Readers - An Interview
with Dr. Twila Liggett

The Inner Workings of Sesame Workshop with Dr. Ed Greene



New: KIDS FIRST! logo store
Your purchase of hats, t-shirts, baby jumpers, bibs, and totes benefit KIDS FIRST!


The Coalition for Quality Children's Media is a national, not-for-profit organization founded in 1991. Because we believe that media profoundly affect children, our mission is to 1) teach children critical viewing skills and 2) to increase the visibility and availability of quality children's programs.

CQCM Newsletter Archive
Jan. 2005 / Feb. 2005 / Mar. 2005 / April 2005 / May 2005
2004 / 2003 / 2002
2001 / 2000 / 1999 / 1998
1997a 1997

Welcome to KIDS FIRST!® NEWS. All articles are by Coalition for Quality Children's Media unless otherwise noted.

A life without cause is a life without effect. -Barbarella

Dear Friends,

Summer is here! My family left home on June 3rd for a month on the road. I laughed when we came home at the end of the month to find two thick comforters on our bed inside a sweltering house. What a difference a month can make! In temperature and in life.
Little did I know, when we left for northern New York to visit my in-laws, that before the month was over, my husband and I would meet up with Ranny and Ann in New York City, we would have brunch with the creators of “Blue’s Clues” and that we would schedule media literacy classes in northern New York libraries.
Things are really hopping, and the KIDS FIRST!® name is getting out there! I am looking forward to seeing more KIDS FIRST!® happenings here on the east coast.
My in-laws have some channels on their TV that we don’t have at home, and my children quickly fell in love with a program called “Save-Ums.” It is part of Discovery Kid’s programming, Ready-Set-Learn. This month I had the pleasure of interviewing Marjorie Kaplan, General Manager for Discovery Kids, for the “Cooling Down With Quality Film” article below.
I hope your summer too is off to a good start and that you find many fun ways to keep cool.
As always, I welcome your input. If you have comments on titles we have endorsed; notices of awards, publications, and products; or suggestions for articles...drop Chris a line.

Christine Pollock, Editor
Contact Me

Dear Readers,

It's been another fast and furious month at KIDS FIRST! We've had a great time reviewing all the youth-produced titles for our third quarter festivals. A group of Santa Fe young adults served as jurors to help us make the final selections of these and I was surprised at how tough they were.

I'm very excited to share with you the interesting collection of youth productions that we're featuring this quarter and want to encourage organizations working with youth to submit their youth titles as well. The next deadline is October 15 for screenings in the first quarter. All other filmmakers should pay attention to our July 15 deadline (August 15 late deadline) for four-quarter festivals. To submit online, visit or

Ann and I spent a week in the Big Apple last week, attending an incredibly stimulating brain-storming session with the International Center for Tolerance Education in Brooklyn/DUMBO. They'll be screening selections from our Kids for Peace Cluster later this summer so please check out our website for times and venues. DUMBO is a very hip new area of Brooklyn, stands for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, with great city views across the river and lots of cafes, galleries, and interesting activities going on. I'll keep you informed about what this group is doing as their plans develop.

We also had the opportunity to meet with many of our New York area festival partners, sponsors, board members, and met with our remote staff - newsletter editor, Chris and publicist Josh Davidson - and, I got to visit my daughter who's now working on a new show for MTV - all of which made for a very full week.

Please do take a look at our list of venues for the third quarter and check out one of our film festival screenings near you. We have more than 30 locations this quarter and films for virtually every age of child and adult.

I hope you are enjoying this wonderful height-of-summer month as much as I am. The garden is in full bloom and the golf course is calling me.

Much love,

Ranny Levy
Founder and President, KIDS FIRST!

If you have a favorite craft or activity, please email it to chris

MEASURING YOUR JOURNEY from Discovery Kids (from
Complements the KIDS FIRST!® store title, “Peep and the Big Wide World”
There are lots of ways to measure distance and you can have fun with your child exploring them.
Before you leave the house or a store, decide how you will measure the distance to where you are going next. How many streets you pass, how many squares in the sidewalk, how many steps you take, or how many telephone poles you pass, are just some examples.
If you walk the same way to and from school or a favorite store, on a regular basis, you can measure the same distance in several different ways.
Write down how far you went in streets, squares, steps, poles, or any other measurement you can think of!


** Laurie Berkner’s Video songbook. Ages 2-5. 37 min. Filmed at a standing-room-only concert and featuring her most requested songs that encourage movement and participation. Footage is seen through the pages of a hand-drawn book with playful animation and sound effects. Adult Juror Comments: Creative, inventive, and fun. Concert format combined with cartoon interstitials. Lacks visual stimulation. Good continuity and content. One song, Good Night, is about different animal babies and how their parents love them. Home-quality production. Kid Juror Comments: Enjoyable. Kids were caught up by "Song in My Tummy" and "Victor Vito." They danced and nodded their heads. "The music was silly." They enjoyed the song where you put a stuffed animal on your head, sing about it, and make that animal's sounds.

*** Swimming in Jell-O. Ages 4-8. Audio CD. 44 min. All-original, upbeat, interactive music for children ages three to ten by recording artist, Judy Pancoast. Features fourteen songs, including the award-winning "Swimming in Jell-O." Adult Juror Comments: Nicely assembled CD with many different styles of music from country to rap to dance. Lesson songs are interspersed with plain old silly songs so it doesn't feel preachy. Kid Juror Comments: "It was funny." "I liked the bug song." "I liked the different kids of music and the alien voice." Kids sang along with it the first time through. "This is my all-time favorite music!"

*** Under the Water Episode 3: Strange Creatures. Video. 30 min. Join Olympic champion Mike Barrowman as he and his friends discover the fascinating creatures that live underwater. This mix of comedy, education and live underwater footage makes learning about the sea entertaining. Adult Juror Comments: Strong educational content. Humorous and appealing. Effective use of picture inserts. Kid narrating helps make the video child-centered. Great underwater shots. "I like the review section where the viewer gets to re-learn what was presented." Kid Juror Comments: Underwater creatures intrigued them. "Neat pictures." "Mike thought the aliens in comic books were cool, and Sharon showed him even cooler sea animals." "It was good, we learned about all kinds of fish." The puffer fish was a big hit with all.


Video/DVD-Ages 0-2

* BABY LONGHORN - RAISING TOMORROW'S UT FAN TODAY! Baby Longhorn uses officially licensed footage of Longhorn sports, mascot, marching band and campus attractions to expose children to the University of Texas in an exciting and playful manner. Adult Juror Comments: Marginal viewing for infants. Geared for UT alumni and football fanatics. Mixes kids concepts such as numbers and marching band music while taking adults on a trip down memory lane. Rough ball playing could be frightening to infants. "Incoherent mélange of screaming adults, toddlers and noise." Kid Juror Comments: Held their attention only for short segments. When it came back on they sat down to watch more. They talked to the screen, danced to the music, and talked about what they saw on the screen. Enjoyed listening to the band music and liked the "cows." One child responded to the number exercise. DVD. 31 min.; $19.95; Age: 1-3. TEAM BABY ENTERTAINMENT

** MAKE BABY LAUGH: CHUCKLE TOGETHER. Third installment of the Make Baby Laugh series reminds parents of the importance of sharing laughter with their kids. Parents are shown great ideas for inspiring laughter while at the same time keeping those little ones dancing and chuckling. Adult Juror Comments: Excellent resource for first-time parents. Each segment is an activity for adults and children. Parents’ section details the psychology behind the games, explaining how children learn and grow from the games. Valuable supplemental booklet. Great for adults who have forgotten how to play. Kid Juror Comments: Were more interested in playing the games - and laughing - with adults than watching the video. One girl, who is very musically inclined, liked touching the screen and talking about the babies. Others watched it intermittently. Some were not interested at all. Watching in segments worked best. DVD. min.; $17.99; Age: 1-3.

Audio, Ages 2-5

** ARE WE THERE YET? Diversified musical styles and clever lyrics will make this CD quickly become a family favorite on car trips and at home. Judy Pancoast performs fourteen original songs from "Monkey Girl" to the award-winning "The Potty Dance." Adult Juror Comments: Entertaining. Wide range of music, moving between slow and soothing, and fast and catchy. Techno pop, ballads, country, piano boogie, even orchestra. High production quality. Peppy and positive. A few songs have lyrics that imply something else such as: monsters from hell(o). Kid Juror Comments: Almost all of them loved all of the music, listening to it over and over. "There are lots of cool songs, especially Monkey Girl." "It wasn't nice putting a tarantula on his cousin and laughing." "The Potty song wasn't respectful, but it was fun." "A little corny." Audio. 48 min.; $14.99; Age: 3-7. JUDY PANCOAST

Video/DVD-Ages 2-5
* GINA D'S KIDS CLUB: JOURNEY TO THE LAND OF DINOSAURS. Simon and the clubhouse characters show young viewers a simple view of how fossils are formed from dinosaur bones, and how they are reconstructed for display at a museum. Includes a special segment featuring TV Ted. Adult Juror Comments: Clean and innocent. Confusing transitions from reality to fantasy. Excellent educational content offset by overly colorful fiction. Factual songs with good rhythm and simple lyrics encourage learning. Many different styles are a distraction. Stereotyped French and Australian characters. Kid Juror Comments: Loved the songs and seeing a dinosaur in the museum. The fantasy dinosaurs had more impact than the educational material: they said that they wanted to go dance with the dinosaurs like the children in the movie did. "I liked the singing. It was a funny show." "It was fun to watch." "I love dinosaurs!!!" Video. 29 min.; $14.99; Age: 3-8. MG STUDIOS

* GINA D'S KIDS CLUB: LET'S GO TO THE ZOO. Kitty, Birdie and Fishy take center stage with Gina to entertain and teach young viewers about different animals at the zoo and household pets. TV Ted, Doggie Brown and the neighborhood children are featured in a music video. Adult Juror Comments: Wacky. Nonsensical, random segments. Frenetic pace. Ideas are not fully developed. Most songs are good. Gina D has a nice singing voice, unnatural affect. Some characters are annoying, even disturbing. "One of the female characters is a man dressed as a woman, which I find odd for preschoolers." Kid Juror Comments: Mostly were turned on by the songs, particularly when Gina D sang, and tried to sing along. "The monkeys and bananas are funny." "The lion song is cool." Many became confused - segments would be almost over by the time they would get into it. Some needed encouragement to finish the video. Video. 29 min.; $14.99; Age: 2-5. MG STUDIOS.

** SO SMART!: SIGHTS & SOUNDS. Adult Juror Comments: High quality, excellent visual and audial training for infants. Beautiful music. Carefully instructs parents on proper use. One adult juror said, "If accompanied by an adult, it's the only infant video I'd recommend." Kid Juror Comments: Excellent timing, very stimulating for infants. "Even my toddler sat and watched and told his baby sister what he saw on the screen." DVD. 30 min.; $16.98; Age: 0-3. SO SMART! PRODUCTIONS.

Audio Ages 5-8

** LIFE OF RILEY, THE: TURKEY TALES. This children's audio book tells the story about a day in the life of a small, American Eskimo dog with lots of white fur who can’t seem to stay out of trouble. Adult Juror Comments: High quality recording of a very cute snappy song. Short. Linear story line is easy to follow. Moral is pointed out bluntly: there are consequences to not obeying. Interesting, engaging voices. Separate sound tracks allow selecting either the bluesy introduction, the story, or the catchy end song. Kid Juror Comments: Some were charmed: "I liked the sounds of Riley running through the house. The music was cool!" "We liked the dog’s funny voice." "I like the book. I wish it had pictures." Others were tepid: “Not bad because it was really funny." "It was kind of good. It was all right." "I would listen to it on a car trip." Audio. 12 min.; $12.99; Age: 5-8. HEAD-ON ENTERTAINMENT, INC.

Video/DVD-Ages 5-8

** PLAYING SPORTS IS FUN: PLAYING SOCCER IS FUN WITH JIMMY SPORT! Jimmy Sport utilizes music and fun to introduce the first skills of soccer. In addition, children are shown the concepts of teamwork and good sportsmanship while receiving continuous positive reinforcement from their peers, coach and Jimmy Sport. Adult Juror Comments: Highly specialized. Best for post-toddlers who are already familiar with soccer. Well put together. Clear pictures and catchy music keeps it moving; doesn’t get too dry. Off-putting portrayal of a bumbling coach and kids’ reactions to him. Stereotypes girls. Gives unrealistic expectations. Kid Juror Comments: Many kids imitated what they saw on the screen, yelling "Go team!" Others simply watched. "I want to learn about heading and dribbling the ball closer. They were dribbling it far and then the other team might get the ball. You have to keep it close to you." "They were helping each other. Teamwork." DVD. 26 min.; $14.95; Age: 4-8. 2 OF EACH, INC.

** BZOTS: GOTTA GET A GIG. With the mean old CEO's secret agents and a looming rainstorm hot on their tails, Bzots race to find a fly crib to call home and a gig to pay for it. Thanks to the friendly citizens of Phantburg, Bzots find out they don't have to go at it alone! Adult Juror Comments: Very different. Frenetic and colorful. Quick cuts and catchy hip-hop tunes. Vivid, entertaining characters. Some of the topics are not geared toward kids: real estate, a song about security deposit and a credit check, and a weird CEO character. "Not sure kids will understand all the slang terms." Kid Juror Comments: Only about half the kids could explain what it was about. "The robots needed money?" "You need a job to get money." Most seemed to enjoy it. "Weird." "Funny." "Good, but weird." "I liked the dancing prairie dogs." "Cell phone song was neat." "I’ll watch it again." "It was neat." "No violence." DVD. 30 min.; $9.99; Age: 5-8. EAT YOUR LUNCH

Audio-Ages 8-12
*** THE TUNE ROOM. Enter Judy's Tune Room and be swept up in a musical extravaganza of fourteen original, upbeat tunes with child-friendly lyrics in a variety of musical styles. Includes the award-winning "One Big Eyeball!" Adult Juror Comments: Snappy and original. Well produced. Varied musical styles. Many pre-adolescent themes such as bathroom humor. Overall, clean kid-humor with double entendres performed in such a way that it's not 'in your face.' Judy's voice is melodious yet fun and light. Her song-writing is right on target for this age. Kid Juror Comments: Loved the range of song styles and kept singing them afterwards. Kids enjoyed the silliness of the songs and the borderline taboos, such as complaining about Dad's "stinky feet." "At first, I thought it was for little kids, but then I read the lyrics and thought they were really funny." "It teaches you to have a good attitude when things are rude and how to deal with things like drugs." Audio. 48 min.; $14.99; Age: 5-10. JUDY PANCOAST.

Video/DVD-Ages 8-12

** ANIMATED HERO CLASSICS: BEETHOVEN. Even as a young boy, Beethoven marched to the beat of a different drummer. An accomplished pianist by age 12, he yearned to try new sounds and persevered until audiences heard his music. Adult Juror Comments: Great starting point for learning about the composer. Brief yet accurate overview highlights his life, provides good coverage of his music. Effectively presents musical influences. Enjoyable. Animation keeps it appealing to kids. Beautiful music. Excellent for music programs, libraries. Kid Juror Comments: Surprisingly popular, once kids found out it was animated. Many could name the pieces. "It's about a way famous man." "We could hear how Beethoven felt being deaf." "He was grumpy." "The music was ok, I like rap better. But it is kind of amazing that he could write and play music without hearing it." DVD. 30 min.; $34.95; Age: 6-12. NESTFAMILY.

*** VEGGIE TALES: DUKE AND THE GREAT PIE WAR. When Sweet Petunia is forced to flee her homeland to protect her mother-in-law Nona, Duke (Larry the Cucumber) risks his life to help her and learns that true love means thinking of others first. Based on the Biblical story of Ruth and Naomi. Also includes a story based on the story of baby Moses. Adult Juror Comments: Good clean fun. Lovable, expressive characters with quirky personalities and unique voices. Fast moving. Drives home theme of tolerance. Creative conflict resolution, no violence. Simple explanations for complex themes. Perfect balance of fun and morality. Fictionalized Bible stories. Kid Juror Comments: A hit among hits - "Big time." "They don't have any arms but they cope with it. I LOVE THE VEGGIE TALES!!!" "Veggies rock! My friends and I talk about them at school. We’ll watch it again." "They taught us to love everyone even your baby brother." "They re-tell Bible stories in a different, cool way." DVD. 45 min.; $14.99; Age: 4-12. BIG IDEA PRODUCTIONS, INC.

** WILLY AND THE FURBRAINS: SERIOUS MISCHIEF. Willy Claflin sings and tells stories through his puppet friends, Maynard Moose, Gorf the Frog and others. Each segment is a different story with a different theme and can be viewed independently of the others. Adult Juror Comments: Silly stuff. Well done budget production; not saccharine or didactic. Understands kid humor. Obvious irreverent style is meant to amuse. Fun props and various animal puppets. Great voice, uneven sound quality. Some parts are funnier than others. "I was left looking for a more positive message." Kid Juror Comments: Weren't quite sure what to make of it. Laughed when prompted by the laugh track. "At first it was hard to hear the words. The sound got better after that." "It was ok." "Some of the stories were silly; some were kind of weird." "The pictures were pretty good." "What's the next story going to be about?" VideoDVD. 36 min.; $14.95; Age: 7-11. KORTY FILMS INC.


Read more about each title and see many more at

Babak and Friends A First Norooz. A. 30 min.

A heartwarming movie about an Iranian boy growing up in America, caught between cultures. With the help of his family and mythological Persian characters, the boy learns to appreciate his Persian roots just in time for Norooz (the Persian New Year). Voice overs by Oscar nominee Shohreh Aghdashloo (House of Sand and Fog), Catherine Bell (J.A.G.), and two icons of Persian cinema, Parviz Sayyad and Ali Pourtash. Original songs by Persian pop stars Andy and Aris. English and Farsi track. Ages 5 8. Norooz Productions.

Cyberchase: EcoHaven CSE. A. 80 min.

Who stole the legendary beast Choocroca on cybersite EcoHaven? The CyberSquad must figure out "whodunit" and find it before Hacker and his secret co conspirator use the powerful creature to take over Cyberspace! Includes: A Crinkle In Time Digit and the kids go on a rescue mission to save Slider. But it's all a big trick by Hacker to trap them in a strange world called Ticktockia. The Creech Who Would Be Crowned If Hacker wins the Big Tikiville car race, he'll become the Big Kahuna! The kids must stop him. But they have a disagreement, so Inez teams up with a girl named Creech. Can they overcome their differences and cross the finish line before Hacker? Ages 8 12. Paramount Home Entertainment/Nickelodeon.

Families of the World. L. D. 3/30 min. shorts

Families of Japan Spend a day with Seichi and Ayako's farm and city families, and take in Sports Day, a silent piano, feeding chickens, grocery shopping, an engagement ceremony, rice planting and calligraphy.
Families of Puerto Rico Puerto Rican children tell about a typical day in the life of a banana farming family and an urban professional family. Shows real life activities, people and places.
Families of Korea Takes the viewer through a typical day in the lives of two families in Korea. From breakfast to bedtime, see their way of life, family interactions, foods and celebrations. Visits the countryside, cities, communities, schools and homes. Ages 5 12. Master Communications.

Indigo. L. F. 89 min. F.

Through the eyes of a child, the world can be a wondrous place. Through the eyes of an Indigo child, a more enlightened path can be embarked upon. The poignant new film weaves the journey of a troubled family with the search for understanding that can bring them together. An estranged grandfather and his grandaughter flee from her unstable father, embarking on a passage of self discovery in which this exceptional child gradually gains his love. Indigo children and their ability to communicate in unique ways with each other, heal, and even foresee events, are well documented. Producer: Stephen Simon (Somewhere in Time); Writers: James Twyman (author, Emissary of Light) and Neale Donald Walsch (author, Conversations with God). Ages 12 18. Monterey Video.

The Jeff Corwin Experience: Out On A Limb: Monkeys, Orangutans and More! L. 130 min.

Join renown wildlife adventurer and Emmy® award winner, Jeff Corwin, as he travels to Borneo, Indonesia, and Zanzibar to bring you within arm’s length of seldom seen, endangered animals. Ages 5 8. Sony Pictures Entertainment

The Koala Brothers: Meet The Koala Brothers. A. 88 min. E.

Set in the Australian Outback, the story follows the adventures of two friendly koalas, Frank and Buster, whose mission in life is to help others. Their daily patrols in their yellow plane seek out anyone in need of help. A cast of characters join Frank and Buster in their adventures. Includes: Archie's New Home When Archie the crocodile moves into the old house by the water hole, he decides to invite everyone to a party to celebrate but no one shows up. He learns that no one has come because they’re all afraid of the old house. The Koala Brothers help Archie paint the house, cheer it up, and send out invitations to another party. Also Sea Captain Ned, The Thirsty Penguin, a Letter For George, Josie's Big Jump, Alice Can't Remember, Ned's Scary Night, What Mitzi Wants. Spanish track. Ages 2 5. Lions Gate Family Home Entertainment

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers. A. 10 min. S.

Inspired by the true story of Philippe Petit, a young French aerialist, and his daring 1974 high wire walk between the twin towers of the World Trade Center. The excitement, suspense and reverence of that feat are brought to breathtaking life in this animated adaptation. Caldecott Medal Book; ALA Notable Book; Book by Mordicai Gerstein; Illustrator: Mordicai Gerstein. Directed by Michael Sporn. Narrated by Jake Gyllenhaal, music by Michael Bacon. Ages 5 9. Weston Woods/Scholastic.

Paz. A/L/Puppets. 4/11 min. E.

Paz, a loveable five year old penguin, stars in curriculum based stories inspired by the everyday experiences typical of a preschooler. Based on the popular book series by Irish writer, Mary Murphy. Includes: BRAVE OLD WORLD - Paz has written a book, ‘The Bird Build Her Nest,’ and he takes us through it. PAPPY'S BOOK - Paz can’t decide on what book he wants read to him at story time. There are so many good ones, he wants to have them all read to him! THE PLAY'S THE THING - When Paz and Big Penguin pretend they are different types of eccentric animals that make even goofier sounds, it reminds him of a story. KITE FLIGHT - Paz scurries around Big Penguin’s office pretending he’s an airplane. He’s having so much fun he pretends he’s other flying things - a spaceship, a seagull, and even a hot air balloon. Directed by Alistair Clark, Leo Nielsen. Actors: Paz (puppeteer and voice) Tim LaGasse; Big Penguin (puppeteer and voice) Rebecca Nagan; Big Penguin (skin artist) Sarah Jane Honeywell; Pig Charlotte Bellamy; Rabbit Margot Caroni; Dog Liam McMahon. English. Ages 2 5. From Discovery Kids.



Laurel Hill Entertainment, Inc.
Laurel Hill Entertainment’s mission is to create exciting, entertaining and interactive shows the entire family can enjoy.

Lean Forward Media,
Leanforwardmedia (LFM) is a high-growth company dedicated to creating high-quality content that entertains, engages and educates. Their first product line is a DVD series based on the best-selling CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE® books, under license from ChooseCo.

School Libraries Get Smoke-Free Magazines
School-library copies of Time, Newsweek, People, and Sports Illustrated magazines no longer contain ads from tobacco companies, thanks to a plan agreed on by publishers, tobacco companies, and state attorney generals. The agreement calls for "selective binding" of magazines going to school libraries, so that even schools that do not receive library subscriptions will benefit from the agreement. School librarians say the magazines included in the deal are among the most popular with students. Removing the tobacco ads, say those involved in the agreement, is an important step toward reducing the number of youth and teens who take up smoking every year. Read more in the Newsday article "Top Magazines Agree to Keep Tobacco Ads From School Copies." (Free registration may be required.) (,0,4783230.story?coll=ny-region-apnewyork)

Oobi! Creator Launches Preschool Programming Academy
NEW YORK, June 30: Emmy-winning kids’ programming producer Josh Selig launches the Little Airplane Academy, a school for industry professionals and beginners who want to learn about making and selling successful preschool programs.


Sesame Workshop and Merrill Lynch Team up to Launch the WorldwideKids Initiative
Building on the impact of Talking Cents, Merrill Lynch and Sesame Workshop’s groundbreaking financial literacy program for children, WorldwideKids includes multi-media educational tools and resources for educators, caregivers and parents to equip three- to six-year-olds with essential life skills. WorldwideKids is funded by a five million dollar grant from Merrill Lynch.

Cyberchase brings its first-ever summer blockbuster mini-series to PBS KIDS GO! in July with the premiere of “Hackers Transformation.” Suspense will build through the four-episode saga, July 25 through July 28 on PBS KIDS GO! (check local listings), as the nefarious Hacker completes his most despicable contraption ever. In the concluding episode, the CyberSquad must save their friend, the cool cyber-teen Slider, from Hacker's clutches. Slider will also finally be reunited with his long-lost father, Coop, played by skateboarding legend Tony Hawk.

Cooling Down With Quality Film by Christine L. Pollock

Sometimes you just “gotta be cool.” This June, we traveled to my in-laws for a visit. After five consecutive days of 90+ degree temperatures, I plopped my beach chair into the tepid waters of Lake Ontario and listened with interest to the conversations of caregivers around me.

Everyone was on a quest for cooler surroundings for the evening. One woman planned to take her children to the library; one grandmother was going to hibernate in her living room in front of an air conditioner with her grandkids to watch videos; another mother was heading to the theater with her children to watch “Shark Boy and Lava Girl.”

It intrigued me to hear that all of the cooling options in that conversation involved media, and two of the options involved film. It pleased me to note that these caregivers were responsible viewers. They had taken the kids to play outdoors all day and the evening media activities were going to be planned family events, not mindless vegging in front of the tv. Their pleasure in media was a result of deliberate choices and hard work by producers who create films to benefit the entire family.

This beach visit came on the tail end of a trip to New York City where I had the pleasure of dining with Angela Santomero and Dr. Alice Wilder, creators of “Blue’s Clues.” Their enthusiasm for children’s programming and genuine love for children are key ingredients of the Blue’s Clues success.

What do producers look for in programming for their own children? Santomero, the mother of a two- and a four-year-old says, “I am a big believer in co-viewing. If we can’t watch something together, at least I have seen that particular episode or movie before so I know what it entails and what questions I can ask my daughters about it. I am always looking for a movie, TV show, or book that makes my daughters think. Of course, my preference is for educational and informational stories that are age appropriate. I like stories that have kids solving their own problems. Stories that have a positive philosophy towards life and celebrate it. I like imaginative programming. Creative programs. I have to say, for four-year-olds, I don’t know why stories need to be scary or contain drama that is completely over their heads.”

With all the numerous cable and satellite channels, coming up with fresh ideas for new shows can be challenging. Plus, the market is not only more competitive, it is ever-changing. For instance, I reported in the October 2004 issue of KIDS FIRST!® News that the “Blue’s Clues” series had been discontinued. Yet ten new episodes and a one-hour-special of “Blue’s Room” are currently in production for a fantastic anniversary celebration in 2006. This kind of mixed message doesn’t keep the Santomero/Wilder team from doing what they love best. Drawing from their own instincts, they take the attributes Santomero seeks in programs for her own daughters, and focus their energy into creating a new program entitled “Super Why.”

“Super Why!” is a literacy-based show with the first super hero whose super power is the power to read. The show features Whyatt Wee, a preschooler in the Wee family who lives behind the books in a children’s library. Each storyline revolves around Whyatt solving the problem of the day. Kids at home help solve the problem through reading games and activities, similar to the Blue’s Clues format. Santomero and Wilder have incorporated a strong literacy curriculum into the program, which supports recognized strategies for successful reading instruction.

Santomero and Wilder constantly ask themselves, “Who is this program for?” In writing “Blue’s Clues” and “Blue’s Room” they create programs for preschoolers. Consequently, they spend a lot of time getting to know preschoolers, understanding how they learn, how they develop, what makes them laugh, what intrigues them and what their parents and teachers want from them.

The idea for “Super Why” first came when Santomero was reading stories to her then four-year-old little brother (who is 14 years younger than she is). Her brother had many questions about the stories and the characters such as, “How did the third little pig get so smart?” or “Why did Little Red Riding Hood go into the woods alone?” His tremendous curiosity and imagination made a strong impression on Santomero, giving birth to the concept of a kids’ show aimed at stimulating that imaginative curiosity. The idea percolated until she fully realized it for her master’s thesis at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Santomero and Wilder spend a lot of time researching each script to ensure that they are truly meeting their mission. It always amazes both Santomero and Wilder that producers can create programming without truly knowing their audience, often lacking vision and passion about the work they are putting forth for millions of kids to watch.

This is something with which Marjorie Kaplan, mother of two and general manager for Discovery Kids, agrees. A key element in the Discovery Kids programming is passion, both for the producers and for the viewers. “We believe it is possible to create entertaining television that can enrich,” Kaplan tells me in a telephone interview.

There are several reasons people watch television, according to Kaplan. Mainly, they want to watch it for pleasure. They want to relax. This is one reason Discovery Kids started their “Ready-Set-Learn” programming. Every weekday, from 6-9 a.m. on TLC and from 6 a.m.- noon on Discovery Kids, children can watch programming that is commercial and sponsor-free. (For a limited time, shoppers at the KIDS FIRST!® web store,, will receive a free Ready-Set-Learn DVD with the purchase of any DVD). Discovery Kids produces media where the story line and the characters are the driving forces. They do not push education. However, careful attention to details and research engages children, enabling them to learn while they think they are just watching terrific stories.

Recently, at a Head Start convention, Kaplan pointed out that all television is learning. The question is, what are viewers learning? As caregivers turn on the television, there are several steps they can take to make their television time a truly enriching experience.

Watch shows with characters who are positive role models.
Watch the shows with the children.
Move around. Interact with the show and with the children.
Ask questions during the show.
Focus on language skills with comments such as “Look at that, that’s a scooter.”
Talk about feelings such as “Look how proud Olena is! She is tying her shoes.”
Ask the children to predict what is going to happen, then watch to see if it does. This is particularly useful if you have a video tape or DVD you can pause.
Resist the temptation to use the TV as background noise. Always turn it off when you are finished watching.

People can indeed cool down with great film. It can bring a family closer together and can enhance a preschool experience. Professionals with a heart for children, such as Kaplan, Santomero and Wilder, enjoy the process of production. Children and caregivers can enjoy wonderful stories and life-enhancing results as children learn important skills from “Blue’s Clues” problem-solving to Discovery Kids’ “Save-Ums” lessons on patience and learning that not everything happens the first time you try.

KIDS FIRST!® is proud to provide titles from “Blue’s Clues” and Discovery Kids (such as “Save-Ums,” “Paz,” “ToddWorld,” and “Peep and the Big Wide World”) in our Film Festivals. With Festivals in more than 50 cities annually, there is a chance that you, too, can cool off this summer with some of these titles and discover for yourself how much fun your family can have with film!

KIDS FIRST!® Film and Video Festival Schedule
Join us as we travel around the country with film festivals. Find out when we will be in a town near you. For details read here
Albuquerque, NM, National Hispanic Cultural Center
Albuquerque, NM, Explora Science Center Children's Museum, Weekly
Austin, TX, Austin Public Library, at all Austin Public Libraries, Weekly
Boston, MA, Boston Children’s Museum, every Friday
Brady, TX, FM Buck Richards Memorial Library
Brookline, MA, Coolidge Corner Theater, Weekly, every Saturday
Childress, TX, Childress Public Library
Cincinnati, OH, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Monthly
Clute, TX, Clute Library, Go Wild Read Program
Crockett, TX, Crockett County Library, Go Wild Read Program
Dallas, TX, USA Film Festival*, Annual Festival (January) and Monthly (Pending)
Denver, CO, Denver Film Society, Every Saturday
Eldorado, TX, Schleicher County Public Library, Go Wild Read Program
Fort Wayne, IN, Fort Wayne Cinema Center, Weekly
Garden City, NY, Long Island Children's Museum, Weekly
Hillsboro, TX, Hillsboro City Library
Houston, TX, Children's Museum of Houston
La Crosse, WI, Children's Museum of LaCrosse, Every Friday & Saturday
La Marque, TX, LaMarque Public Library, Go Wild Read Program
Little Elm, TX, Little Elm Public Library, Go Wild Read Program
Los Angeles, CA, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Weekly
Los Angeles, CA, Los Angeles Zoo, Summer Programming Beginning July
Milwaukee, WI, Betty Brinn Children's Museum
Nashville, TN, Belcourt Theater, Annual Festival (Feb. 18-21) + Weekly Screenings
New Orleans, LA, Louisiana Children's Museum, Weekly
New Orleans, LA, New Orleans Film Festival
Newport Beach, CA, Newport Beach Film Festival*, Annual Festival April 21 30
Odessa, TX, Ector County Library
Oklahoma City, OK, Oklahoma City Art Museum, Monthly
Ozona, TX, Crockett County Public Library
Palestine, TX, Palestine Public Library. Go Wild Read Program
Pearland, TX, Pearland Public Library
Pflugerville, TX, Pflugerville Community Library
Phoenix, AZ, Phoenix Art Museum, Monthly
Phoenix, AZ, Phoenix Film Festival*, Annual Festival April 7 10th
Providence, RI, Rhode Island Film Festival, August 9-14
Round Rock, TX, Round Rock Public Library
Salt Lake City, UT, Salt Lake City Children's Film Festival*, Annual Festival (Pending)
San Jose, CA, Mexican Heritage Plaza*, Weekly (Pending)
San Juan, Puerto Rico, San Juan Children's Film Festival
Santa Barbara, CA, Santa Barbara International Film Festival*, Annual Festival June 05
Santa Fe, NM, PeaceJam, Annual Conference April and May 2005
Santa Fe, NM, KIDS FIRST! Film & Video Festival*, Annual Festival May 05
Spring, TX, Community Cinema, Community Programming on Demand
Van Alstyne, TX, Van Alstyne Public Library, Go Wild Read Program
Washington DC, Avalon Theater

Other Events:

July 11-16, Santa Clarita, Ca: “What IFFF? Kids Festival & Film Camp.” Sign-up deadline July 7, 2005. Empower children from 7-18 years of age to tell their own stories through the medium of film and screenplays and to provide a forum to facilitate networking with their peers by participating in workshop training designed to encourage excellence in their skills as future filmmakers, storytellers and citizens of the world. For more information, go to or

August 1-4, Albuquerque, NM: Summer 2005 Catalyst Institute. An intensive four-day training experience in media literacy concepts and skills. Participants are led in workshops, exercises, video screenings and discussions designed to deepen understanding of media issues and provide a solid foundation for media activism.

September 28-October 2, Las Vegas, Nevada: The 27th National Media Market will be at the newly renovated Alexis Park Resort. The National Media Market presents an exceptional opportunity for media professionals who purchase for public libraries, universities, media/technology centers, and educational broadcasting to screen the newest and best quality motion media from more than fifty prominent producers and distributors. KIDS FIRST! President, Ranny Levy, is a panelist on 'building library collections.' For more information email [email protected], or visit the website, add your event to this list, please send a notice to chris.

To add your event to this list, please send a notice to chris.

Become a Coalition for Quality Children's Media Member

If you've found our e-zine and web site helpful, please consider becoming a member of KIDS FIRST!® Members help underwrite the various projects of this organization. The Coalition for Quality Children's Media's relies on the generous support of its members and donors to support its programs. An individual/family membership is only $25/year. An organizational membership is $100/year. An independent producer membership is $200. To join, go to: or contact our office at 505.989.8076.

VISIT OUR MEMBERS' SITES ******************
Please visit our website for an up-to-date list of Coalition members by clicking here:


Contact Ann ************************

Send comments, questions and feedback to chris.

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This newsletter may be reprinted with permission. Write to: [email protected]
Copyright 2002 by Coalition for Quality Children's Media,

KIDS FIRST!® is the not-for-profit Coalition for Quality Children's Media's initiative that evaluates and rates children's media - videotapes, CD-ROMs and television - using a highly acclaimed method that has been praised by parents and educators alike. It utilizes professionally designed criteria and evaluation tools and engages a volunteer jury comprising child development professionals, teachers and parents nationwide and children of diverse geographic, socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds. KIDS FIRST!® endorsed titles appeal to people around the world and include many programs on topics important to children's development. KIDS FIRST!®-endorsed titles are available on CQCM's award-winning Internet site, in the KIDS FIRST!® Film and Video Festival and in reviews we provide to more than 75 publications.

CQCM evaluates feature films, television programs, videos, CD-ROM, DVDs and audio recordings. For an application form and application deadlines, visit our website at, call our office (505.989.8076) or send an email to Our Jury Coordinator.

Coalition for Quality Children's Media, 112 W. San Francisco St., Suite 305A, Santa Fe, NM 87501.

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