Arts and Culture

A group of a dozen First Gethsemane Baptist Church students cluster around Eamonn Fitzgerald, who works in Early Childhood Education at Kentucky Educational Television (KET), as he leads them through a song to help them learn about weather.

While it might sound like a normal day in preschool, the educational activity was prompted by something a little unexpected — a TV show called “Nature Cat,” a PBS program about a house cat turned “nature explorer extraordinaire.”

This is just one of the programs that will be played on the newly launched 24/7 KET PBS KIDS channel, a children’s service that includes free, full-time children’s programming available on-air, online and on mobile devices.

Shae Hopkins is the executive director and CEO of KET. She says research indicates how important high-quality early education is to a child’s success in school and in life.

“Unfortunately there are significant gaps in the instruction children receive prior to kindergarten,” Hopkins says. “Many don’t have the opportunities that are available here.”

She says many Kentucky children are never in any formal preschool environment.

“And screenings indicate that more than half of Kentucky’s children aren’t prepared for kindergarten,” Hopkins says.

Mayor Greg Fischer says that’s where the new 24/7 channel will help the state’s most vulnerable children, especially those in urban and rural areas, learn important skills during the time they watch TV most: primetime.

“There are families that are just doing fine and they’re able to accelerate ahead because they have all the advantages that you could possibly shake a stick at,” Fischer says. “And then there’s other families that don’t but want the best for their kids.”

The channel will include popular PBS Kids programs such as “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” “Odd Squad,” “Dinosaur Train” and “Wild Kratts.” More information about programming is available here.

Ashlie Stevens is WFPL's Arts & Culture Reporter.