Reading is Fun-damental for Arthur
There is a whole subgenre of animation directed toward educating children that, if you weren't exposed to it in school, you might never have heard of. Case in point: "Arthur," a Canadian/American animated educational tv series for children. Now, if you didn't know about this series, you might have guesses that something involving SpongeBob or Batman was the longest-running children's tv series, and those are good guesses, but no - it's "Arthur."
|Arthur has many normal experiences for children, such as nightmares|
There are over 200 half-hour episodes of "Arthur" so far, each containing two 11-minute stories, and it has aired on the Public Broadcasting System for seventeen seasons (and is still going strong). That is a lot of seasons! It also attracts about 10 million viewers weekly, which is an incredible number that would place "Arthur" as one of the most-watched tv shows of any kind in the world if it were an adult show - and yet, here we are, perhaps never having heard of it at all.
|A slightly different look for "Arthur" which captures the spirit of the show|
Arthur Read is an anthropomorphic eight-year-old brown aardvark. He lives in Elwood City, a suburban town that vaguely resembles the northeast near Boston, and attends Lakewood Elementary School. Both of this parents work, his father as a chef and his mother as an accountant, and he has two sisters, Dora Winifred (DW) and Kate, who is still a baby.
|Arthur spends much of his time in school|
Oh, and there is Arthur's dog, Pal. Elwood City is a multicultural hodgepodge of races and species, so Arthur gets to show how easy it is to interact with people who are different than him.
|Arthur has a wide variety of friends|
The local professional baseball team is the Elwood City Grebes, and they have a rivalry with the Crown City Kings that stems from a long-ago incident that created "The Curse of the Grebes," which makes the Grebes unable to win "the big one." There are other references to features of Boston, such as a hockey team that sounds like the Boston Bruins and so on and so forth.
|There are the normal childhood competitions and rivalries|
Marc Brown adapted the "Arthur" books for the series, and the goal was to encourage children to read books. Almost everything is filmed in Canada, and Brown works in references to his own kids now and again.
|Arthur has his crowd of friends who offer good advice|
There are just enough references to real-world things and parodies of shows like "The Twilight Zone" to keep an adult viewer interested, and indeed there are many adult fans. The series, though, is most definitely aimed squarely at the younger crowd. Guest voice actors have included Joan Rivers, Fred "Mr." Rogers, and Lance Armstrong, among many others. Armstrong and Rivers are the only repeat guest stars (so far).
|Arthur and one of his best friends|
"Arthur" does not shy away from real-life issues that people face, including diseases and nightmares. Other PBS animated series such as “The Magic School Bus” have followed its educational approach and amplified the educational effect that the "Arthur" template has had. Both shows have very catchy tunes like the Brain’s song, “(I was) Jekyll, Jekyll, Hyde,” a song presented in the episode "Arthur's Almost Live Not Real Music Festival" based on the classic book "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" by Robert Louis Stevenson, and “Ride on the Magic School Bus.”
|Arthur with his friends in the school cafeteria|
The series has received a lot of awards, such as the Peabody Award, and four Daytime Emmy Awards. it is a terrific learning tool for kids, and anything that helps kids learn to read and write is a good thing for sure.
Below is an 11-minute episode of "Arthur" from Season Two entitled "Arthur's Underwear," in which Arthur has nightmares about losing his pants in school. Notice the subtle suggestion that Arthur could learn how to deal with his problem by reading books about it.