Every once in a while, a brand marketing initiative taps a property’s DNA so well that it’s hard to imagine it not coming to pass. Such is the case with the Super Why! Reading Camp, based on New York IP hatchery Out of the Blue’s PBS preschool series Super Why! Put into the testing phase last summer, the program has expanded from six to 34 camps in 19 markets ranging from New York to Louisiana. The goal is to reach 100 camps by 2009.
As with the TV series, the Super Why! camps aim to help older preschoolers build their language skills, and four of the five camp days are dedicated to a different reading skill embodied by one of the main characters. Each day, the campers receive a mask and key accessory of a featured character, such as Princess Presto, and then they follow along as the toons turn into their super-selves on-screen. The fifth day culminates in a Super You activity where the kids put all the skills together to show visiting parents, get a visit from a costume character, and walk away with a shiny certificate.
Out of the Blue co-founder Samantha Freeman says last year’s camps served as a real testing ground for the curriculum developed by show consultant Dr. Alice Wilder. ‘We got to figure out what games worked and how to program the three-hour day to get the right flow,’ she says. Another key component is that the camps are led by accredited teachers.
So far, the effort is largely being funded by a grant received by the series from the US Department of Education to help less-privileged kids learn how to read. With the move to triple the number of camps next year, Freeman says she’s started looking for national and local sponsors and sees companies that currently support reading education as a good fit.