The Ready To Learn Service is a nationwide effort using on-air, online and print resources and local support to help parents and early childhood educators prepare children for success in school. Services were first launched in 1994, and are conducted by PBS stations, broadcasting high quality PBS KIDS television programs like Sesame Street to 93 percent of the country including 93 million homes with 37 million children. Local stations further build partnerships with community organizations such as childcare centers, schools, libraries, businesses, civic groups, and government agencies.
The Ready To Learn Service's official website describes Sesame Street’s goals as follows:
Sesame Street encourages children to
- take beginning steps toward reading, writing, mathematics and science
- learn about feelings and how to cope with emotions
- appreciate cultural diversity by modeling people who differ in appearance, action, or point of view playing together, working together, making friends, and resolving conflicts
- appreciate the arts in a variety of forms including visual art, music, and dance and create their own art as they develop the concept, "I am an artist."
- learn about the body and how to keep it healthy and safe
In 2006, PBS launched a series of short commercials for the Ready To Learn Service, that mixed characters from above mentioned PBS KIDS shows. The first four were television parodies:
- One clip features the surprising re-appearance of long absent Guy Smiley (Sesame Street) as host of Jeopardy! take-off "Double Get Wordy". Contestants are Cookie Monster and cartoon characters T-Bone (Clifford the Big Red Dog) and Thora (Arthur).
- Another features Ernie in an American Idol spoof called "Star Finder". Judges are Theo (Between the Lions), Emily Elizabeth (Clifford the Big Red Dog) and Oscar the Grouch.
- Yet another features Ernie in a CSI spoof, investigating alongside Ord (Dragon Tales), and an unnamed girl. Bert and the residents of the house, a mother with her son, eventually show up as well. The theme from Peter Gunn is used as background score.
- Another one features the two Between the Lions characters Leona and Theo. The segment takes place outside the normal realm of the show, and instead takes place in a family living room, spoofing the sitcom genre, complete with laugh track.
Each of these commercials ends with a brief set of credits, making reference to characters from PBS shows. The "Double Get Wordy" game show commercial credits include Grover as Camera operator, Prairie Dawn for Art Direction, Elmo Monster as Leona's Body Double and Big Bird credited as a Gaffer. A block of smaller credits followed, referring to the puppets as "Felt Americans."
The second set of clips were based on famous movies, and began airing in 2007. These include parodies of:
- Mission: Impossible: Agent Cookie has ten seconds (counted by Between the Lions character Arty Smartypants) to write his name before his message (from Arty, televised from a cookie) self-destructs. (This clip features a rare showing of Cookie Monster's entire body.)
- Superman: Cleo Lion (wife of Theo) convinces Grover to let the world know who he really is by learning how to write the emblem of Super Grover.
- West Side Story: Theo and Ernie sing an upbeat song based on "The Jet Song" about how rhyming can help one learn to read, backed by groups of kids. Oscar makes a cameo when a basketball thrown by Ernie hits his can ("Ow!").
- Casablanca: Grover and Cleo reminisce about playing the "rhyming game", with Grover (at the piano) getting carried away with the rhymes.