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Sunday December 21 2014


April 4, 2002

WSIU-TV Channels 8 & 16 invited to White House for launch
of PBS campaign to promote reading for children

 Barbara Lesar, WSIU Director Bob Gerig, and Acting Assistant Director for Planning and Technology Candis Isberner with First Lady Laura Bush

Carbondale, IL –WSIU-TV Channels 8 & 16, Southern Illinois University’s public television stations, and nine other public television stations around the country were special guests of President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush in the East Room of the White House on Wednesday, April 3 during a celebration of early childhood education and the PBS Ready To Learn Service. PBS Ready To Learn helps prepare children for school success by combining educational children’s television with online learning and innovative training for parents, teachers, and caregivers. Early childhood education and reading achievement are among the Bush Administration’s top educational priorities.

Representing the WSIU Television Stations were Barbara Lesar, President of the Friends Board of the WSIU Stations; Robert Gerig, Director of the SIUC Broadcasting Service and TV General Manager; and Candis Isberner, Acting Assistant Director, SIUC Broadcasting Service in Technology & Planning. Other stations invited to attend were WFSU-Tallahassee, Mississippi ETV, WGBH-Boston, KETC-St. Louis, WTTW-Chicago, KTCA-Minneapolis/St. Paul, WQLN-Erie PA, West Virginia PTV, and WNPT-Nashville. The producers of the PBS programs Between the Lions, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, and Sesame Street also attended.

The WSIU Station representatives meet TV legend Fred Rogers

During the event, PBS launched the PBS Designated Reader Campaign, an initiative whose primary goal is to ensure that every child has a designated reader every day. Other goals of the campaign include to raise public awareness of the importance of reading to children, inspire millions of adults to read aloud to children, offer grassroots activities that encourage more adults to become designated readers, and to mobilize a national coalition of literacy, education and youth groups. Laura Bush will serve as Honorary Chairperson of the campaign.

The WSIU Television Stations were invited to attend the launch of the PBS Designated Reader Campaign based on their national leadership with Ready To Learn and a successful collaboration with Unity Point School District 140 in Carbondale on a reading project.

Barbara Lesar, President of the Friends Board of the WSIU Stations, meets First Lady Laura BushIn the early 1990s, WSIU was selected as one of only 10 stations in the country to pilot and launch the Ready To Learn Service, and since then has served as a model site for other public television stations. WSIU-TV 8 & 16 broadcast 60 hours of children’s programs per week, distribute over 20,000 books each year to youngsters across the region, and conduct training for parents and other childcare providers with the assistance of long-time partners, Child Care Resource & Referral at John A. Logan College and Project: CHILD at Rend Lake College.

WSIU -TV 8 & 16 also partnered with Unity Point School District 140 in Carbondale for a reading project using the PBS KIDS series Between the Lions (weekdays at 12pm), a production of WGBH-Boston and Sirius Thinking, Ltd. Between the Lions promotes the concept of the PBS Designated Reader Campaign through storylines and public service announcements at the end of each episode. In the Unity Point project, a class of second-grade students watched episodes of Between the Lions, and then used materials from the Between the Lions web site as follow-up activities. In addition, for four days every week, a group of sixth graders read individually with the second-graders to encourage good reading skills. In ten weeks, 11 second-graders who were reading below grade level averaged an increase of 1.5 grade levels, while the class improved their reading skills significantly overall.

In addition to support from the U. S. Department of Education, the WSIU Television Stations’ Ready To Learn service is funded through strong support by River Region legislators, underwriters, donors and viewers.

The WSIU stations are public broadcasting affiliates licensed to the Board of Trustees of Southern Illinois University. The stations provide innovative programs and services that foster educational, civic and personal development. For daily program information, community services and more, visit

WSIU Public Broadcasting, Carbondale, Illinois 62901-4306, 618-453-4343
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