by Elizabeth Blair

Not too long ago, I picked up my 3-year-old at day care and received a free DVD of a show I’d never heard of, called Super WHY.

My son loved it. The animated characters on Super WHY all have special powers. They spell, sound out words, read simple sentences and jump inside books and look for answers to questions they have.

“We’re modeling books as a resource for life,” explains Super WHY Executive Producer Angela Santomero.

It turns out the free DVD was part of a major initiative by the Department of Education. In 2005, it gave PBS a multimillion-dollar grant to produce shows that would help teach pre-reading skills to children from low-income families. My son was going to a YMCA day care in downtown Washington, D.C., one of 20 cities targeted for outreach.

[Read the rest of this post by NPR correspondent Elizabeth Blair]