Between the Lions

In January 2005, WGBH Boston and Sirius Thinking, Ltd., in New York partnered with Mississippi Public Broadcasting (MPB) to produce the Emmy® Award-winning PBS KIDS® Raising Readers series Between the Lions in the MPB studios.  Between the Lions features a loveable family of lions—father Theo, mother Cleo, son Lionel, and daughter Leona—to introduce pre-kindergarten children to the concepts of print, language and reading. 

In September 2005, Mississippi Public Broadcasting, in partnership with the Barksdale Reading Institute, the Early Childhood Institute-MSU and WGBH Boston, began Mississippi’s Between the Lions Preschool Literacy Initiative.  The program helps children develop strong foundations in basic reading skills by providing a hands-on curriculum, learning materials, professional development, and mentors who model activities using Between the Lions episodes. In addition to this initiative, MPB has developed the Between the Lions Preschool Literacy Library Project, the Delta Revitalization Preschool Literacy Project, and formed a partnership with Mississippi Rotary Clubs.

Between the Lions Preschool Literacy Initiative

Through this project, MPB provides resources, expertise, and encouragement to child care centers in the Jackson area to promote literacy in children with the help of its partners – WGBH, Sirius Thinking Ltd, Mississippi State University Early Childhood Institute, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, U. S. Department of Education, and Barksdale Reading Institute.  From September 2005 to January 2009, the Between the Lions Preschool Literacy Initiative has impacted:

  • 95 childcare center classrooms (Hinds, Madison and Rankin counties)  
  • 1,591 children 
  • 60 teachers 
  • 73 early childhood centers 
  • 61 early childhood directors and administrators 

Early childhood research expert studies (2005 – 2008 school years) indicated that children who participated in the Between the Lions Preschool Literacy Initiative achieved significant gains and in some cases achieved above the national average on tests.


Between the Lions Preschool Literacy Library Project

The Between the Lions Preschool Literacy Library Project placed the scientifically-based reading research curriculum of the Emmy® Award-winning PBS KIDS series into 17 public libraries across the state, making these libraries a key community tool in teaching pre-kindergarten children ages three to five years old.  The goal of the project is to bring literacy building tools such as print, language and communication to as many of Mississippi’s 240 public libraries as possible.  For a map of participating libraries, click here.  


Rotary Club Partnership

In 2007, Mississippi Public Broadcasting began a partnership with Mississippi Rotary District 6820 to provide the Between the Lions Preschool Literacy Initiative curriculum in childcare centers adopted by Rotary Clubs in their district.  This unique partnership introduces the center directors and teachers to the Between the Lions television program and correlated classroom curriculum that provides early word recognition and comprehension activities for the three- and four-year-old children who are in their care daily.  


Delta Revitalization Preschool Literacy Project

Sixteen childcare centers in the Delta region have participated in the Between the Lions/Delta Revitalization Preschool Literacy Datacasting Initiative, a project to improve the pre-literacy skills of children attending their centers. This project was made possible by the Delta Revitalization Task Force, Mississippi Public Broadcasting (MPB) and the Foundation for Public Broadcasting in Mississippi. Through MPB’s datacasting system, the Between the Lions episode segments and a professional development course showing how to use the Between the Lions preschool literacy curriculum with students were broadcast from MPB television transmitters to special receivers (PodBoxx) placed in the participating childcare centers.  Each center also contained an LCD monitor, printer and classroom learning materials.