Meet The Stanton Family

What do science lessons and family bonding have in common? For Patrick, Lucinda and Naomi Stanton, the connection comes from their time together at the Ruff Ruffman Family & Community Learning workshop.

The Stantons participated in this four week series along with other area families. Designed to spark STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) interest in young children, the workshop also empowers parents like Patrick and Lucinda to support their child’s education both at school and home.

“With the four weeks of science projects and doing things and meeting different people, Naomi learned a lot. It was awesome!” Patrick’s observation of his daughter’s time at the Ruff Ruffman workshop is a testament to what a valuable experience these sessions are for kids and parents alike.

Low-income and underserved households are often less equipped to address learning gaps. KLRU’s collaboration with key community partners addresses critical needs in early education by presenting lessons through play and hands-on activities. Research-based, engaging outreach to Central Texas families provides practical tools that these participants can continue to utilize well beyond the workshop.

Miriam Mendoza, KLRU’s Project Director for Ready To Learn says “I just like those little moments where the parent realizes ‘Wow, my child can learn through playing and I can be a part of that.’”

Each session starts with a meal, giving the adults the chance to talk and connect with neighbors who also have young families. Spending quality time with neighbors expands the support network for all these parents, which in turn supports all the children in their STEM progress.

Lucinda was particularly excited about the PBS KIDS Playtime Pad Naomi received after graduating from Ruff Ruffman. “It has a lot of learning apps: reading, drawing, spelling. It’s helping her to get more familiar with computers because they use them at school. And it actually helped me out too.” For some families, this is the first device they’ve brought home. This access lets kids hone technology skills and engage in creative, thoughtful play.

The Stantons gained the confidence at our Family & Community Learning workshop to tackle hands-on engineering projects together. KLRU’s Ready To Learn promotes early learning and school readiness while striving to build a more informed and connected Central Texas. And from Naomi’s smiles, this is just the first of many exciting STEM discoveries that she’ll make with her parents there to cheer her on.

“We’re thankful for the educational workshops KLRU provides in the community.”

                                                                                                        – The Stanton Family————————————————————————

Do you value KLRU? Find out how to help at

Family & Community Learning (FCL) workshops are part of the Community Collaboratives for Early Learning and Media (CC-ELM) project through the Ready to Learn (RTL) initiative funded by the U.S. Department of Education and administered by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and PBS.


Get to know KLRU’s early childhood community partners: Thinkery, Communities In Schools of Central Texas and Boys & Girls Clubs of the Austin Area. These local organizations are essential to the success of our workshops! They recruit families like the Stantons, they provide the space and their staff lead instruction.

Check out additional information about KLRU’s time at the Ruff Ruffman camp.

Read more about KLRU’s involvement with Ready To Learn (RTL) and Family & Community Learning (FCL).

KLRU Brings The World To Your Neighborhood!

Happy 50th Anniversary to
Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood on PBS!

It’s a beautiful day in the Central Texas neighborhood… because of YOU!

There’s a lot to celebrate this March at KLRU! We’re six days into our Spring Fund Drive and on March 20th we commemorate Mister Rogers’ birthday and his 50 groundbreaking years on public television.

The man who taught millions of young viewers that they should be loved exactly as they are has nurtured kindness in generations. Mister Rogers’ thoughtful lessons emphasized the great importance of a safe, educational space like PBS—made available for free to every American. KLRU is proud to be a part of this legacy.

If Mister Rogers inspired your love of PBS…if you believe that the quality content on KLRU is worth funding and protecting…consider making a gift during the KLRU Spring Drive!


Make sure to tune-in to KLRU tonight at 7 p.m. for Mister Rogers: Its You I Like
As a tribute on this 50th Anniversary of Fred Rogers on PBS—and after nearly 900 episodes—stars like Whoopi Goldberg, John Lithgow, Yo-Yo Ma, Sarah Silverman and more reveal some of their favorite Mister Rogers’  Neighborhood moments.

P.S. KLRU has some exclusive online only Mister Rogers gifts. Rock a retro PBS look around town with one of these fun thank you items when you donate!

$5/month or a one-time $60 donation – receive a set of our enamel cast Mister Rogers pins
$7/month or a one-time $84 donation – receive the “It’s you I like” zippered tote bag

                Mister Rogers Pins                
Rogers tote

Last minute thank you gifts and tickets are still available!

We’ve cut a whole week off our winter fund drive—which means it’s already winding down! There are less than two days left, but we need to raise $50,000 to meet our goal! There’s still time to help us get there!

Donate now—don’t miss your chance to experience some of your favorite PBS shows in person, all while supporting KLRU! We have some fabulous live events, from rock ‘n’ roll to family fun! Make a gift now and we’ll thank you with your choice of tickets to:

• See Broadway in Austin on the opening night of The King & I on December 12th
• Experience the Moody Blues at their special live 50th Anniversary Tour on January 21st
• Creature Power! The Kratt Brothers return to Austin for Wild Kratts Live on January 28th
• Hear Michael Pollan tell his story One Writer’s Trip – From the Garden to the Plate and the Beyond on February 2nd
• Rock out with guitar legend Joe Bonamassa on May 25th (meet and greet package available!)


Giving the gift of KLRU is so much more than an ordinary present. Your gift brings PBS favorites to Central Texas screens, creates new and original programs and supports children, parents and teachers with educational media. Your support will truly ensure that your KLRU community has a holiday season that is merry and bright!

“I am still a PBS Kid.”

As Jessica Michallick recently told KLRU, being visually impaired meant missing out on certain experiences, when she was in school.

“I didn’t get to participate in the science fair,” she recalls. “I didn’t get a chance to do experiments in school.”

It’s no surprise that this memory still stands out to her. One of Jessica’s favorite shows at the time was Bill Nye the Science Guy on her local PBS station.

“[It] just gave me such interest in science. I would do little experiments at home. My parents would always find weird things that I was freezing to see what would happen to them.”

At school, Jessica also experienced bullying from other students, but another PBS favorite, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, provided a sense of acceptance and belonging.

“[Mister Rogers] did a song called ‘It’s You I Like’ . . . I felt like he was really my friend. Like I would communicate with him through the TV.”

Like Jessica, many of us still remember exactly how it felt to be bullied as kids—even decades after the fact. Furthermore, as parents, many of us are now guiding our own children through struggles with bullying.

Jessica is a member of KLRU today because she knows firsthand that PBS provides space for all children to feel care and respect—and to learn how to deal with differences.

Parents can count on KLRU for children’s media that communicates empathy and builds self-esteem—all without advertising. In fact, parents continue to rate PBS KIDS as the most trusted and safe channel for children to watch. Read more about how PBS KIDS benefits children and parents. And PBS KIDS is now available 24/7!

Today, Jessica is all grown up, but she hasn’t forgotten what a difference these programs made in her life.

“I am still a ‘PBS Kid,’ ” she says.


Do you value KLRU? Find out how to help.

We’d love to hear from you! Follow the link and let us know what #YourKLRU and PBS stories are. You might just be our next featured viewer.

KLRU hosts National PBS KIDS Ready to Learn Advisors Meeting

On February 2 and 3, 2017, KLRU hosted the Ready to Learn National Advisors Meeting.  The annual meeting is typically held in Washington D.C.; this was their first-ever relocation to a community implementing Ready to Learn-funded activities.  Over 50 advisors from higher education, media production, and public-serving agencies gathered to provide direction to the project, in order to discuss the content and curriculum being produced, its dissemination to communities in need, and to give input on how to best evaluate the project’s efficacy.

Ready to Learn Advisors in a panel discussion on the original Austin City Limits stage. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting and PBS Kids are leading the Ready to Learn: Community Collaboratives for Early Learning and Media project, funded by the Department of Education.  The five year grant ( 2015 – 2020) calls upon up to 40 PBS stations from all over the nation and their local community organizations to disseminate scientific inquiry and literacy content to low-income children ages 2 – 8 years old.

KLRU was one of the 11 pilot stations invited to test new resources in the field.  We partner with Thinkery, Communities In Schools of Central Texas, and Boys & Girls Clubs of the Austin area.

From Left to Right: Ben Kramer, VP of Education at KLRU; Erica Gallardo-Taft, Vice President of Program Services at Boys & Girls Clubs of the Austin Area; Eric Metcalf, Chief of Program Strategy at Communities In Schools of Central Texas; Robin Gose, Director of Education at Thinkery

Among other initiatives, we have held Odd Squad Summer Math Camps and Family Creative Learning (FCL) workshops at partner sites. At the FCL workshops, we guided parents to actively engage in their child’s learning using the free PBS KIDS Scratch Jr. app, which allows them to animate their favorite PBS characters.

In summer 2017, KLRU will pilot Odd Squad Summer Science Camp in which kids will solve problems to become Odd Squad agents.  Another project coming down the pipeline is a new collection of Ruff Ruffman science materials.

Thank you to Thinkery for hosting one day of the workshop and to the city of Austin for wowing the Ready to Learn Advisory group. We hope that they will return in 2018.

Ready to Learn: Community Collaboratives for Early Learning and Media is funded by the US Department of Education and administered by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

KLRU and Community Partners: Families Creative Learning workshops

KLRU has partnered with the Thinkery, Boys & Girls Club, and Communities in Schools to bring Families Creative Learning workshops to low-income families with young children. Parents bond with their children as they both learn to code.  Using the Scratch Jr. PBS app, the families animate their favorite PBS characters. The parents have the wonderful opportunity to be active participants in their children’s learning. As supportive collaborators, parents encourage their children to problem solve and experiment while being persistent in their creative process.

Walk into a session and you’ll see friendly families sharing a meal. Afterwards, it’s time to reflect on what has been learned. Then parents work together with their children to create a project that tells a meaningful story.  It’s neat to see how imaginative the children can be as they express themselves using technology. The final projects are shared amongst the group and include animated greeting cards, stories about their family, and other wildly creative animations.

31518205452_e16346e90b_o (1)Karen and MomRob, Miguel, and Mom (2)

What’s great is that families receive a tablet at the end of 4 weekly sessions. These tablets are a gateway to more learning using the many free PBS kids apps available. Families also receive books that they can enjoy at home as a vital component of at-home learning.

Educational experiences such as this empower parents to continue engaging in their children’s education. It inspires children to continue to explore and discover new ways of self-expression in today’s digital world.

Families Creative Learning is part of the Community Collaborative for Early Learning and Media, funded by the US Department of Education and administered by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.



New PBS Kids “Measure Up” app

School’s out for summer and that means endless days at the pool, but with the new PBS KIDS’ education phone application children won’t be falling behind anytime soon.

Thursday June 16, PBS KIDS debuted ‘Measure Up!,’ a free app that is designed to help children build math skills and encourage parents to support their learning. Primarily designed for 3 to 5-year-olds, the app builds on measurement skills that feature games, videos and activities from popular PBS KIDS’ series. In addition, parents and caregivers will be able to track progress and find activities through a companion app with tools.
“Given the overwhelming number of apps available, it’s often difficult for parents to find great educational content for their kids,” said Sara DeWitt, Vice President, PBS KIDS Digital. “’PBS KIDS Measure Up!’ not only helps build math skills in a fun learning environment, it also lets parents track the skills in which their kids excel, and the skills where they may need more practice.”

In PBS KIDS Measure Up!, children can visit a world with characters from PBS KIDS’ series DINOSAUR TRAIN, PEG + CAT and SID THE SCIENCE KID. There, they explore concepts of length, width, capacity and weight while collecting rewards through each game or activity. The app thoughtfully sequences different types of media to ensure kids will build math skills. According to PBS KIDS, each game, video and activity has be rigorously tested to ensure a positive learning experience for children.

Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s senior vice president for education and children’s content Debra Sanchez says, “This innovative new app demonstrates public media’s ability to engage children through free, high-quality educational programming across all platforms.”

Bringing parents into the learning adventure, ‘PBS KIDS Measure Up!’ connects with a free companion app for adults: the PBS KIDS Super Vision App for parents. PBS KIDS Super Vision provides parents and caregivers with updates on their kids’ progress throughout the Measure Up! app and shares information and recommendations, suggesting related activities that they can do with their children to build on the skills they are developing. Through these features, parents and caregivers can engage in, better understand and guide their children’s learning.


KLRU’s Work Impacted by New Every Student Succeeds Act

Today President Obama signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act, the first major national education overhaul since the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001. KLRU’s Educational Services work is impacted in two specific ways by the passage of this law.

First, the ESSA Act includes funding for Ready to Learn, the PBS Kids endeavor which leads to the production of high-quality educational shows, apps, online games, and additional resources, and which includes funds for KLRU and 10 other stations nationwide to pilot implementation and distribution of these assets.

Second, one of the new features of the ESSA is that high schools must use graduation rates as one of several measures of progress. KLRU is a participant in the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s American Graduate initiative, and as such, we have been working over the last two years to assemble a body of knowledge and resources about how to enable more students to stay in school and graduate, especially in those schools and among demographic groups with chronically high dropout rates.

In fact, tonight at 5:30 pm, KLRU is taping a student town hall, in which we have gathered well over 100 middle and high school youth for a televised forum on their perspectives on key issues – what challenges do they face on the road toward high school graduation, what resources have they found meaningful, and where do we adults continue to miss opportunities to support them in their journeys? You can RSVP for this event here. Plan to watch Stop The Drop: Engaging Students In Their Futures on December 17 at 9pm.

Stop the Drop

KLRU shares Play to Learn™ program at White House conference

On Tuesday, August 18, 2015, KLRU took part in a White House convening around the ConnectHome initiative, the plan to provide low-cost/free high-speed connectivity in over 275,000 low-income residences across the US and on tribal lands. Austin has been selected as the mentor city for the project due to collaborations including the City of AustinHACAGoogleAustin FreeNetUnited Way for Greater Austin, and KLRU, among others.

KLRU’s role in the panel was to share our work on Play to Learn™, the United Way-led initiative that brings parents and youth ages 2-4 together for a variety of fun learning activities, including the use of digital tablets. Throughout the 10-week program, the families take home books and learning materials and upon successful completion of the program, they take home a digital tablet loaded with educational apps for the whole family. We utilize PBS resources to illuminate at-home learning experiences, including video from PBS Kids, apps like PBS Parents Play and Learn and Daniel Tiger’s Day and Night, and KLRU’s own Smart Screen Time®/La Pantalla Inteligente messaging. Play to Learn™ is a powerful example of the kinds of programs that can occur once a low-income community gets reliable and affordable access to the Internet.

Austin Pathways, Housing Authority of the City of Austin, KLRU-TV, Austin PBS, Austin Free-Net, Everyone On, and Google Fiber at the National #ConnectHome Summit in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy Austin Pathways

Austin Pathways, Housing Authority of the City of Austin, KLRU-TV, Austin PBS, Austin Free-Net, Everyone On, and Google Fiber at the National #ConnectHome Summit in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy Austin Pathways

KLRU’s vice president of education, Ben Kramer (pictured on the far left above), represented Play to Learn™ at the conference. Below is a Q&A with Ben describing the Play to Learn™ program, what its effects have been, where he sees it headed in the future and what his role was at the ConnectHome conference.

Q: How did Play to Learn™ start?

A: Play to Learn™ was developed about five years ago. The United Way had done some research to try to determine where the greatest pockets of need were in the Austin area in terms of school readiness. Not surprisingly, they’re all in low-income zones, but they could go even deeper to say there are specific hot spots where 75 percent of the kids are entering Kindergarten not deemed “ready.” And “ready” doesn’t just mean academic skills, “ready” means the ability to follow group instructions, the ability to play nicely with others, the ability to hold attention to get through a developmentally appropriate activity as well as fine motor and gross motor skills, some awareness of letters, a concept of print, things like that.

In addition to funding quality childcare programs, what can we do? In these pockets, large numbers of families did not have their kids in sanctioned early childhood programs. They had their kids at home with them, or they had them in what we call informal family, friends and neighbors networks of childcare. Well, what do we do about that? And that’s how Play to Learn™ kind of got its start.

For years, there have been programs or workshops offered to families about how to foster learning activities at home, but number one, even when these are free, you tend to see an attendance drop. For example, we were trying to run six workshop sections, but we’d see attendance fall off a cliff after about three or four sessions. The other piece is that we were just then seeing the explosive growth of tablets in the early childhood arena. Given that the seed funding from this entire investigation and project had come from Samsung, United Way went to Samsung and said, “You know, we think we want to try to incorporate tablets.” And that’s where we came in. PBS Kids had shifted its strategies to focus more on the online and tablet-based world for early childhood games and video. So we joined them in the design of the Play to Learn™ curriculum, and in its general approach and outreach.

Q: How does Play to Learn™ work?

A: The program is 10 weeks long. The first and last sessions are tablet-oriented, where you commit to attend at least eight of 10 sessions in order to get the tablet, you’re committing to allow us to film and gather and use data. In the end, we sign over the tablets to the families. All the rest of the stuff in the middle is this pretty standard workshop model, where there are a variety of activities that are all designed to replicate what’s going to be their pre-Kindergarten or Kindergarten experience but maybe more developmentally appropriate, and that are designed to get the kids and their parents interacting in the moment. That includes story reading, play with blocks, water colors, markers, puzzle pieces, toy cars — all the kind of stuff that you would see in an early childhood center, but the big difference is we’re asking the parent to let the child take the lead on those activities and for them to follow along and also for them to infuse a whole lot of dialogue, so it’s not just playing silently.

Also included are uses of media. We show clips from our own shows and from educational videos directed at childcare folks. We use the tablets every time, there’s at least one app that the families are asked to explore together that are related to the themes of that session.

Every week, the family goes home with a take-home bag which includes some of the manipulatives, the toys they’ve been giving to play with at home, and at least one book. And then at the very end of the session, they take home the tablet.

Q: How did your work on Play to Learn™ lead to speaking on a panel at the White House?

A: In the summer, we had just signed a contract with the United Way, based upon a grant they had received from the City of Austin, to provide Play to Learn™ in Housing Authority sites around the city, serving approximately 40 families at four different sites around the city. The first round of Play to Learn™ took place at Meadowbrook Housing, which recently opened, and the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) secretary, Joaquin Castro, was there in November for the grand opening of this new educational facility on the grounds. This summer, there was a HUD conference in Austin, and they went up to see the different programs in Austin, it wasn’t just Play To Learn. Austin FreeNet and Austin Boys And Girls Club both have programs there. Simultaneously, President Obama this summer went out to a housing development on an Indian reservation in Oklahoma to promote the ConnectHome initiative, which is their goal, before they leave office, to have all public housing in the United States hard-wired for high speed internet. This ConnectHome conference was what we were invited to in Washington.

The idea was that largely because of Google Fiber and Austin’s general pace of tech development and tech infrastructure, the work being done at that Meadowbrook site is in many ways a template for what the Obama Administration and others would like to see happening in these other sites and housing developments as they come online in the upcoming year.

We were asked to be on a panel to help answer the question, “You’re wired, now what? What can you do with that that you couldn’t do before?” In a way, it was interesting because the tenor of the conversation was about the work with the hard-wiring. Our work with the tablets doesn’t need a hard-wire connection, you just need a strong WiFi signal. So one of the follow-ups I had was to connect back to the conference leads to say, “That’s a very short time to get 275,000 hard-wired. Let me offer this as an alternative, if you can get a strong WiFi signal in your housing communities and you can go to tablet-based technologies, you’re able to tap into resources a heck of a lot quicker.”

Q: What have we learned from Play to Learn™?

A: Research was done on the first 200 families we served, and we saw some really positive outcomes. Attendance was through the roof, and at one level, we credit the tablet. But at the other level, that longer time period allowed us to build community, and a sense of collaboration and trust and the fact that these sessions are meant to be fun. They’re very lively, a lot of laughter, a lot of goofiness. When we follow kids, that’s what’s going to result. Some of the other research results were parents indicating positive trends in some of these very same school readiness qualities that we’re after. One surprising research result was an actual decline in parents’ depressive symptoms, and we contribute that to two things: that sense of community and the notion that they’ve heard this idea that you have to go into American schools ready, and this helps to shed a light on what that readiness really means. It doesn’t mean that your child entering pre-Kindergarten knows how to write their name. It means that your child can follow directions and sit still and cooperate and collaborate with others and be curious and explore. So, for all those reasons, we’re really proud of the work that we’ve done.

Q: What’s next?

A: Since that original study of 200, we’re now up to about 500 families served in the Austin area, and we’ve just signed contracts to serve approximately 100 families per year for the next five years. In addition, we’ve brought along some other partners who are implementing either the Play To Learn model as it was designed or they’re modifying it and folding it into their own curricula. The other thing we’re hoping to do is to explore making social media more interactive for the parents in the program.

KLRU announces local 2015 PBS Kids Writers Contest Winners

Today, KLRU announced the local winners of the 2015 PBS KIDS Writers Contest. The first place winners in grades K-3 will advance to the national level of the contest. Over 190 creative entries were received from local children and 13 winners were chosen for first place, second place, and third place recognitions:




“At KLRU we were truly inspired by the enthusiasm and talent that this year’s contest entries demonstrated,” said Ben Kramer, Director of KLRU’s Educational Services Department. “Each year KLRU is a proud participant in PBS KIDS’ annual Writers Contest as it advances KLRU’s commitment to helping grow children’s literacy skills while encouraging expression and imagination. KLRU celebrates the talented children of our community and we wish the winners advancing to the national contest the best of luck.”

You can read all stories submitted in the KLRU area

The annual PBS KIDS Writers Contest is a national initiative designed to promote the advancement of children’s literacy skills through hands-on, active learning. The contest encourages children in grades K-3 to celebrate creativity by submitting their own original stories and illustrations.

KLRU’s first place winners will advance to the national contest and a panel of some of America’s foremost children’s authors, illustrators and media creators will serve as honorary judges and rank the top 12 finalists. National winners will be announced this summer and the winning stories will be featured on

The national winners will receive prize packages including a library of ARTHUR® books by best-selling children’s author, Marc Brown, courtesy of national prizing sponsor, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers and a personal technology device courtesy of PBS. The PBS KIDS Writers Contest is produced by PBS and based on the Reading Rainbow® Young Writers and Illustrators Contest, a concept developed by WNED-TV, Buffalo.

To learn more about the contest, visit