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Reading Rockets Webcast Examines "Screen Time" Impact on Literacy Development

Industry Experts Discuss Research Findings and Practical Solutions

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Television for children has always generated controversy and debate. A new Reading Rockets webcast will examine the current state of children’s growing use of television, video games and computers, drawing upon the expertise of a researcher, an education journalist and a teacher in the field.

“Young children are using technology more than ever,” says Noel Gunther, executive director of Reading Rockets. “The question is how to harness the power of screen time to help children learn.”

The new webcast, “Educational Media: Screen Time and Literacy,” will premiere November 30, 2009, on www.ReadingRockets.org. The webcast will examine the questions raised by the new and growing field of educational media and discuss the latest research findings, cover practical solutions and explore lingering questions. Experts include:

• Deb Linebarger, Ph.D., is assistant professor of communication in the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania and the director and principal investigator of the Children's Media Lab. Linebarger’s research focuses on the relationships among children's developmental status, their use of media, and their larger social worlds. Her work has been presented at numerous conferences and published in psychology, communication, education, and pediatric medicine books and journals.

• Lisa Guernsey, the author of "Into the Minds of Babes: How Screen Time Affects Children From Birth to Age 5." She is also a senior policy analyst at New America Foundation, a nonpartisan think tank and incubator for explanatory and investigative journalism on pressing policy issues, and a regular contributor to the Early Ed Watch blog. Guernsey has been writing about education for nearly 15 years and has worked for various publications including the "Chronicle of Higher Education," the "New York Times," and "The Washington Post."

• Marnie Lewis, the Instructional Technology Coordinator at Tuckahoe Elementary in Arlington, Virginia. Lewis evaluates educational sites and software to enhance instruction and works directly with staff to integrate technology into lessons. She received a B.S. in elementary education from Northeastern University, completed graduate work in instructional technology through George Mason University, and has taught in classrooms for over 10 years. She is also a PBS Teacher, a Smart Exemplary Educator, and a Discovery Star Educator.

Children are watching more TV than ever, according to the latest Nielsen figures. A recent article in the "Los Angeles Times" pointed to new statistics that show screen time is at an eight-year high. The figures indicate kids ages 2 to 5 watching the screen for more than 32 hours a week on average and those ages 6 to 11 watching more than 28 hours. Besides television, kids six and under are increasingly using computers and video games.

Reading Rockets is a national, multimedia initiative that provides information on teaching kids to read and helping those who struggle. The project is a service of public broadcasting station WETA in Washington, D.C., and is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs.

The 45- to 60-minute webcasts are available for viewing anytime on ReadingRockets.org. “Educational Media: Screen Time and Literacy” is the 17th webcast in the Reading Rockets professional development series.

Reading Rockets is a part of a bigger Learning Media project at WETA. Sister sites include LDOnLine.org, the world’s leading website on learning disabilities and ADHD; ColorinColorado.org, the first major, comprehensive bilingual website for Spanish-speaking families and teachers of English-language learners; and AdLit.org, a literacy website for educators teaching adolescent children from fourth through 12th grades. The latest project is BrainLine.org, a new resource for preventing, treating and living with traumatic brain injury.

WETA Television and Classical WETA 90.9 FM are public broadcasting stations serving the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia with high-quality programming. WETA Television produces the "PBS NewsHour"; "Washington Week with Gwen Ifill and National Journal"; history films by Ken Burns such as "The National Parks: America’s Best Idea"; and performance specials from the White House, the U.S. Capitol and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Sharon Percy Rockefeller is president and CEO of WETA. For more information on WETA and its programs and services, visit weta.org.

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