GOAL: INCREASE THE EDUCATIONAL VALUE OF ALL CARTOONS BY ADDING SUBTILES TO THEM SO EVERY YOUNG CHILD IN AMERICA CAN IMPROVE THEIR READING AND LEARNING SKILLS AS PRESCHOOLERS
My name is Patrick Post and in late 1990 I began developing the American Literacy Association. Earlier that year, I learned that deaf children were improving their reading skills through closed-captioned television programming. I was confident that this new technology would work even better for hearing kids because they could hear the words being spoken. I started promoting this concept throughout America and I received over 50 letters of support including the White House, U.S. Department of Education, U.S. senators, governors, state departments of education, universities, the hearing-impaired TV channel Kaleidoscope, Hanna Barbera Cartoon Productions, and renowned global book publisher Harcourt Brace, now called HMH.
In 1991, at the urging of the White House, the U.S. Dept. of Education, and others, I sent my proposals to ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX. This was prior to the Internet. Cable TV also couldn't find viewers and FOX was losing money every year. I requested the networks change their format for their closed-captioned cartoons to a subtitles format (open-captioning) so all children could benefit from this educational material, not just deaf children. This format would be equivalent to subtitled foreign movies, but it would be intended for children ages 2-12 as an inexpensive and effective reading tool. Even though I repeatedly contacted the television networks regarding this concept by mail, phone, and fax, they ignored all my efforts. I only received one response which was from NBC and they said they had no interest in changing the format of their cartoons because their advertisers might not like the change and this could lower viewership. I believe they were actually concerned about the potential of lower profits from sponsors, but I was positive the subtitles would increase the educational value of cartoons and kids would like the new format, which would increase network profits.
I created a cable-access cartoon program in Portland, Oregon in 1993. With assistance from U.S. Senator Paul Simon, (D) Illinois and verbal support from Turner Network Television, I attained 20 episodes of The Jetsons cartoon from Hanna-Barbera to broadcast for 1-3 years as a pilot project. TNT did not want to put their support in writing. I added the captions and received nationwide support from many influential sources such as Kaleidoscope who said they would help me broadcast the cartoons through their 201 cable systems in 33 states. Unfortunately, they backed out of their commitment because they said ABC, CBS, and NBC provided their programs for free and the three big networks didn’t want Kaleidoscope supporting our literacy proposals. U.S. Senator Simon strongly supported our proposals and he tried to create and pass legislation in congress to require the TV networks to include subtitles in their cartoon programming, but he was unsuccessful. Before to the success of cable television, the TV networks were very powerful and they created fear in anyone who opposed them, including members of congress. Fortunately, times have changed and ABC, CBS, and NBC no longer have total control over television, so I am reintroducing these concepts to a new generation of parents, educators, and business leaders.
In 1993, the book publisher Harcourt Brace agreed to support our education proposals. They stated that with author approval, I could use their children’s books to create a new type of children’s program for TV and for retail sales. This would be achieved by filming the pages of the books in their original design to create a moving storybook by panning in and out as well as around the page to give a similar effect as the motion in cartoons. I was unable to implement this aspect of the project due to limited funding and I was already committed to promoting subtitled cartoons on television.
One of our first goals with the redevelopment of this project will be to use children’s storybooks to create a better cartoon program. We will broadcast the cartoons on cable TV to millions of kids and we will provide the programs to preschools, charter schools, and public schools to help young children and especially at-risk and english-second-language (ESL) children improve their reading and learning skills. This project will be self-sustaining within 18 months due to sales, sponsorship, and advertiser revenue. It will be easily expandable globally by simply flipping a switch to change the subtitles from one language to another and we will encourage Turner Network Television to add subtitles to their enormous stockpile of cartoon programming.
Our goal will be to improve the reading and learning skills of all children ages 2-12. Most cartoons are considered to have low educational value, but they are watched more by young children than any other type of children's program in ages 2-6. By adding the subtitles, this will significantly increase the educational value of cartoons. The greatest benefit will be attained by preschool and at-risk children because they watch the most hours of cartoons daily (4-8) as compared to other kids. Impoverished at-risk and ESL children also receive the least reading instruction in their early years (ages 2-6). This innovative educational concept is the most efficient and least expensive way to reach tens of millions of children and the new subtitles will improve the visual aspects of the cartoons because they will eliminate the closed-captioned black box on TV screens. Please see the link on our Homepage entitled At-Risk & ESL Kids which provides information about how our proposals will help these two disadvantaged groups of children.
The Homepage on our website provides links to numerous examples of enthusiastic response letters that we received from across the United States. You will also see a newspaper article from the Oregonian Newspaper in Portland, Oregon dated 12/06/93 that provides an overview of this project as well as a follow-up article nine days later that is entitled Kids' Brain Power dated 12/15/93 which indicates how children's brains develop rapidly starting at age two and their learning capabilities can be greatly increased by exposing them to large amounts of reading and other learning material. We will send our literacy proposals to the U.S. congress and ask them to pass legislation to support this project. This will encourage the national cable channels to add subtitles in their cartoons, so they can become more educational and the costs will be tiny considering the huge benefits attained. It is important to understand that this change will not cost U.S. taxpayers any money because the cartoon networks will pay all of the insignificant costs because they collectively receive tens of millions of dollars each year from manufacturers and advertisers promoting their products to our children.