Kids Media Matters

WGBH’s Resident Talking Dog Martha Helps Increase Children’s Vocabulary

By Kids Media Matters

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Three independent studies report that the highly rated WGBH and PBS KIDS series Martha Speaks is an effective tool across platforms (broadcast and mobile devices) in increasing young children’s vocabulary. The studies noted increases comparable to traditional classroom vocabulary instruction (such as reading out loud) for kids who viewed multiple episodes of the show, as well as gains of up to 31 percent in the vocabulary tested among low-income children who played with the Martha Speaks Dog Party iPhone app.

“We’re thrilled with the impressive impact the project is having on increasing young children’s vocabulary,” says Carol Greenwald, WGBH senior executive producer. “Vocabulary is critical to reading comprehension and a key predictor of reading success. By the time children enter kindergarten, however, a great chasm in vocabulary knowledge exists between disadvantaged kids and their peers—and the former never catch up. Across multiple platforms, Martha Speaks has been able to enhance kids’ knowledge of words through the context of a talking dog and great stories.”

 



Both fans of the series and education experts agree, saying:
 

  • “I could not agree any more. My daughter is three and tests at a higher level and I thank PBS daily for that.” - My Springfield Mommy
  • “My experience is a bit different from other parents, because my oldest son is autistic. At the age of 4-years-old, he was hardly talking and strangers couldn’t understand him at all. That’s why we get very giddy when he likes shows like Martha Speaks that actually make a big effort to help his development.” - Mommy Q
  • “Kids like Martha, and a host of studies now show she’s improving their vocabularies in a big way. At a time when many members of Congress want to kill federal funding for public broadcasting...it’s important to acknowledge the benefit that shows like Martha Speaks bring to some of its youngest, and most disadvantaged, viewers.” - American School Board Journal
  • “Yay Martha Speaks! "Martha Speaks" Shows Impressive Impact in Helping Children Learn New Vocabulary http://t.co/bOWyTEw @pbskids - Alice Wilder, Educational Psychologist and co-creator of Super Why

Each episode of Martha Speaks targets 20 new vocabulary words. Some words are taught implicitly through the context in which they are used. Other words are explicitly defined. The words range in difficulty from those typically taught between 2nd and 8th grade. Targeted words are repeated multiple times per episode.

The full studies are available on PBS KIDS website, at http://pressroom.pbs.org/Children-Media/PBS-Kids/MARTHA-SPEAKS.aspx .
Visit Martha Speaks on Facebook at http://facebook.com/pages/marthaspeaks and on Twitter @pbsmarthaspeaks.





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Every time children watch TV or surf the Web, they are learning something. But what are they learning? Grown-ups need to shepherd children through the maze of images that may shape their minds, for better or worse.



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