11/15/2012 03:49 pm ET

Curious George Helping To Bridge The STEM Education Gap In Preschool: Study

A recent study of the popular children’s program Curious George found that the series’ television episodes and TV tie-in books positively impacted young children’s knowledge of the science and math concepts covered, as well as enabled parents to become more comfortable helping their children understand those subjects.

The total sample size for the study was 155 families, each with at least one child who was 4 or 5 years of age. The proportion of racial and ethnic groups in the sample mirrored the proportion of racial and ethnic groups currently living in the U.S., and more than half of the families — 61 percent — reported that their household financial situation was about the same as the average family.

The families, which represented 31 states, were randomly assigned to one of three groups: the book group, the television group or the control group.

After families in the book group had an opportunity to read the Curious George books, the preschool child and one parent within each family completed a survey together to assess their understanding of the STEM concepts that were presented in the books. The same survey was administered to the control group, who did not read the books.

The process was repeated for the television group, who, after completing the survey, also read a set of books together that were tied to the episodes in order to reinforce the concepts that were introduced.

The survey responses were then compared, and indicated that children who watched the show and read the books demonstrated significantly better knowledge of measurement, hibernation, colors, weather, buoyancy, sound, sorting and plant life than children who did not read or watch.

Additionally, an overwhelming majority of parents whose children interacted with Curious George in some capacity reported that the program helped them feel more confident in their abilities to help their children learn about science and math. They also said their children were inspired to try other scientific activities at home, and to make predictions, observe, ask questions and hypothesize.

Some parents reported the Curious George resources motivated their children to try to learn to read, and were similarly inspired to make more visits to a library than parents who did not engage with the materials.

The Curious George educational impact evaluation comes on the heels of a brief that urges policymakers to invest in high-quality preschool education, citing its universally acknowledged economic and social benefits. High-quality, intensive preschool education for at least two years has been found to close as much as half the achievement gap.

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