To help close the well-documented literacy gap and positively represent BIPOC (black, indigenous and people of color) children in our community, the Regional Arts Commission of St. Louis is teaming up with Nine PBS and Lion Forge Animation to create an exciting new kids’ animated series, Drawn In.
Launching in Fall 2022, Drawn In follows four comic book-loving kids as they go on epic adventures where their real-world collides with a new comic world in each story. The stories are shared through animated shorts, comic books, a website with educational games, and live learning events.
“This project isn’t just about launching a new cartoon,” said Jay Scherder, communications senior manager of the Regional Arts Commission of St. Louis. “It’s about creating a love for literacy, art and creativity. Sixteen new video shorts will be broadcast on Nine PBS during weekdays in conjunction with Teaching in Room 9 episodes. Comic books will be distributed via the St. Louis American, an award-winning and free local newspaper serving the Black community, reaching over 40,000 homes and local hubs. It will also be sent to all K-3 grades in St. Louis Public Schools.”
According to the St. Louis City, only 37 percent of third grade students are reading at a proficient level or better. Furthermore, white students are more than twice as likely as black students to demonstrate reading proficiency in the third grade. Children who are not reading proficiently by the end of third grade are four times more likely to not graduate high school on time as compared to proficient readers, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
“Poor educational outcomes are linked to other negative consequences in the future, such as poor physical and mental health, poverty, and unemployment,” said Angie Carr, Nine PBS vice president and chief impact officer. “Children need to see characters like themselves who are celebrated and modeled as readers, problem-solvers, and champions in these stories.”
Drawn In was developed by and for the St. Louis community. Over the past several months, the creative team has convened with early learning experts, organizational partners and stakeholders, and local families to help develop characters and storylines that align with their real-life experiences.
“The stories are about smart, fun, multi-dimensional kids who love reading and reflect some of the many identities of kids in our communities. Black, Latinx, and Asian early learners will see themselves represented in every aspect of Drawn In,” said Carr. “It is imperative to tell our communities’ authentic stories by reflecting on all the wonderful things that make up our identities.”
Drawn In hopes to expose all children in the St. Louis region and across the country to authentic and non-stereotypical characters who may be different from the viewer’s own identity. The project aims to build empathy and foster a more connected society when experiences are shared.