A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that, in terms of PBS educational programming, this series exists somewhere between Sesame Street and The Electric Company. The focus is all about words and letter sounds. Parents will appreciate the parodies of adult shows, and kids will like the characters and the stories read during the program. But how much information is too much? This series is rather wonderful in some ways, but it teeters on the edge of being too chaotic to be effective.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Compelling characters and serials are what make BETWEEN THE LIONS a fun and fascinating television program. The Lion family, who live and work at the library, are the program's main characters. The mother and father lion provide good parental role models as they care for their clan and read, play, groom, and support their children, Lionel and Leona. A frazzled hen supplies library information, while a talking statue lends his curmudgeonly opinion to two pigeons who can't get their thoughts straight. Parodies of the Dick and Jane books and a short called "Gawain's World" will surely appeal to parents.
Is it any good?
In each episode, a vowel sound group (like the short "a" in the sound group "ack") is emphasized. Words containing the sound group (e.g., "back," "sack," and "crack") flash briefly on the screen, while letters are bumped to form new words as they are spoken. Even the strongest readers have to pay close attention to the quick changes in spelling, so it's unclear how the series' creators fathomed that young readers would be able to get the gist of them. It's almost as though the subliminal benefits of quickly flashing words were deemed more important than taking the time to focus on fewer sounds more thoroughly.
Sesame Street does well in this department by slowly sounding out fewer variations of word choices. Otherwise, the young viewer is apt to become frustrated -- or even confused -- by what's going on in the program. In other words, the intention to educate is clearly behind Between the Lions, but the quantity-not-quality axiom doesn't apply when it comes to teaching young readers about phonetics. Other than this educational qualm, Between the Lions is an entertaining, diverse -- and rather educational -- show for young viewers.
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