Super Why!/WordGirl



9 a.m./3 p.m. Monday, Sept. 3
PBS Kids

PBS hopes to entertain and help educate the preschool set with two new lively animated series, "WordGirl" and "Super Why!" each of which ask kids to interact with the show's script and learn something about language, and even bigger than that, the world that kids actually live in and have to negotiate everyday.

There's no loss of imagination in either of these outings. They're spirited and well-meaning.

"Super Why!" which airs daily, helps kids ages 3-6 with the critical skills they need to learn how to read. Each episode offers kids a 24-minute adventure in reading, including a 3-D tour of a bookshelf before the exercise even begins. Then kids meet their hosts, Red from "Little Red Riding Hood," Pig from "The Three Little Pigs," Princess from "The Princess and the Pea," and Whyatt, the younger brother of Jack of "Jack and the Beanstalk." Then the characters fly inside the books they're reading, and the viewers go right with them, making this interactive series come alive in a colorful, active way.

The other series, "WordGirl," which regularly airs in a regular Friday time slot, teaches kids about words by using a more formulaic story line. The action centers on the adventures of a seemingly ordinary little girl named Becky Botsford, who looks to lead an ordinary lifestyle with her nuclear family intact. However, the truth about Becky is that she and her sidekick, a monkey named Captain Huggy Face, landed on Earth after their spaceship crashed.

She possesses super strength and a super-duper, colossal vocabulary -- all the better to teach kids how to spell. At the end of each adventure, words and meanings are presented in a game-show format for young minds. No matter how young kids are, the world wants them to start reading.

In these two colorful, oft-times frenetic series, youngsters can find a good place to start. "WordGirl" looks to be a bit more sophisticated, and no doubt older kids (those actually about to enter kindergarten) might find more material to attract them. But neither series can be said to lack the incentive to get kids on their way toward understanding vocabulary and its larger context.