The Potential of Television Programming as a Resource to Facilitate Academic Progress for Students who have a Specific Learning Disability in Reading Open Access

Television has been perceived as a possible instructional tool. Research, however, has been unable to determine the television industry’s ability to meet children’s needs despite federal government’s efforts to regulate programming through policy. Television’s ability to impact learning needs closer examination especially considering that younger audiences are becoming increasingly diverse. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) found that the percentage of students with disabilities was approximately 13% by the 2008-09 school year with students having a specific learning disability representing the largest group. Reading, in particular, was an identified area of deficiency in 80% of the millions of students with learning disabilities (Therrien & Hughes, 2008). This qualitative study’s objective was to examine current children’s television programming’s ability to foster reading skill development in students who have a specific learning disability in reading. Using Anderson and Lorch’s (1979) active viewing theory as a lens, I conducted a content analysis of three episodes for each of the following shows for program visual and audio elements that may foster an educational learning environment and for demonstrated use of proven classroom teaching strategies: a) SuperWHY!, b) Martha Speaks, c) WORDGIRL, d) The Electric Company, e) WordWorld, and f) Between the Lions. All shows’ episodes contained proven classroom teaching strategies. Common to all six shows was the strategy of teacher modeling. SuperWHY! demonstrated every research-based strategy in every episode with the most-used strategies being questioning, teacher modeling, and accessing prior knowledge. With regards to the shows’ ability to promote a multimedia learning environment, results per show varied. Across its three episodes, SuperWHY!, however, had evidence of the most regular use of effective audio and visual elements. This study provides an examination of television’s ability to serve as an instructional tool for students with a specific learning disability in reading. Its findings have implications for further investigation in television’s ability to reach this population as well as other learning disabled populations. This study’s results also provide implications for practice as well as policy in ensuring the creation and delivery of quality educational programming that meets the needs of a widely diverse audience.

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