Early Childhood News

Focusing on underserved populations with Ready To Learn

By Holly Ackerman, KET

Throughout the last 20 years–thanks to the Ready To Learn Initiative–the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and PBS KIDS have worked with partners to develop, distribute and evaluate PBS KIDS content that engages children, families, and educators. My colleagues and I at KET were fortunate to participate in the most recent cycle of this grant from 2015-2020.

Ready To Learn has had a positive impact on the children and families of Kentucky. At its heart, the grant funds educational television and digital media targeting low-income preschool and early elementary aged children and their families. The resources created are intended to help children learn and expose them to content needed for school success.

In October 2020, CPB and PBS KIDS announced approved federal funding from the U.S. Department of Education for year one of the 2020-2025 Ready To Learn grant. KET is again honored and privileged to be a part of this grant.

I grew up as a PBS kid, watching Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. These shows helped me to learn to read, count, and to recognize my feelings had names and I was important. Knowing PBS was a trusted resource, my children too grew up with friends like Elmo, Arthur and Maya & Miguel.

The impact the Ready To Learn grant has had on me, my children, and career is immeasurable. When I accepted my position as an Early Childhood Education Consultant with KET in 2017 I had no idea how much this would change me. Though I had been in the early care and education field for many years, I had been out of the classroom for about ten years. I missed interacting with children and families. The Ready To Learn grant has allowed me to interact with families to make a positive impact.

About 8 months after I had started at KET, we hosted a PBS KIDS ScratchJr Family Community Learning (FCL) workshop series in Floyd County. The audience reflected many of the families we see in the underserved communities that Ready To Learn grant focuses on, grandparents raising grandchildren, single parents, multi-generational households etc.

In attendance was a single father and his little girl. For many in attendance, including this family, it was the first experience with using an iPad, not to mention coding. As with many of the FCLs, we separated the children and caregivers to focus on helping the adults feel comfortable with their role as the expert. The father was so excited to show his daughter what he had learned when we brought them back together. Her eyes lit up as he showed her. In that moment, her dad was the coolest person in the world. This experience is etched in my brain as the moment I knew KET was where I belonged. Watching them work together throughout the FCL was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

I am privileged to be a part of the KET Early Childhood team and be able to continue to develop, test and produce resources for children and educators across the U.S.

Holly Ackerman is an Early Childhood Education Consultant at Kentucky Educational Television. Holly has worked in the field of early care and education in Kentucky for over 20 years. She lives in Lexington with her husband and their two daughters, Sarah and Emily.