Between the Lions is an educational television show, primarily aimed at ages four through seven. It attempts to teach literacy by combining two traditionally opposing principles of education: the whole learning method and phonics. Phonics has generally been held as the atomized type of learning; we learn the building blocks of words, put the words together to make sentences, put the sentences together to make meaning. Whole learning, on the other hand, favors a word-shape approach, as well as content before details. Like all of its acclaimed predecessors, including Sesame Street, Between the Lions synthesizes these concepts into a whole that really works.
To this end, the show presents both models for reading, and models for phonemic understanding and comprehension. In a July 2000 study conducted by Deborah L. Linebarger, Ph.D., of the Juniper Gardens Children's Project at the University of Kansas, it was discovered that kindergarten children watching Between the Lions outperformed the non-watching children by almost 4 to 1. Furthermore, average test performance improved 50% for those watching the show. Winner of an award for "Outstanding Achievement in Children's Programming" given by the TCA.
The premise for the show is a family of lions who work in a library. Theo and Cleo are the parents who run the library. Occasionally amorous and always entertaining, they try to keep the children, Lionel -- the boastful older brother -- and Leona -- a little lioness who is learning to read -- out of trouble. Other side characters include Cliffhanger, who is ever hanging from a cliff, and repeatedly fails to improve his situation; Dr. Ruth Wordheimer, who helps people who can't pronounce long words; and the fantastic Arty Smartypants, who does a "trouser-defying dance in his magic smartypants." Along for the ride is Click the Mouse, a computerized mouse with a hard time grasping lion humor and idiom.
The show is entertaining for both children and adults, and the plots are so inventive and catchy that before long, you too will be dancing in smartypants.
Some statistical information taken from the pbskids website at pbskids.org.