Engaging the Community Around Literacy is No Contest in Reno

Posted by Anna McDonald on
A literacy workshop kicks off KNPB's annual PBS KIDS Writers Contest
Courtesy KNPB

In Reno, PBS member station KNPB has leveraged the annual PBS KIDS Writers Contest to foster a love of reading and writing among its youngest citizens, and to engage the community in ways that increase the visibility of KNPB’s local PBS KIDS service beyond broadcast and generate additional financial support.

KNPB’s proven formula is as follows:

  • Hold an annual launch party for the Writers Contest at a local business or sponsor. This year, it was at the local Barnes & Noble. 
  • Incorporate a fun, literacy-themed workshop as part of launch party
  • Make it a free event and promote it to local families
  • Have a camera crew on hand and use video from the event to create on-air spots promoting the Writers Contest
  • Invite important stakeholders, such as board members and major donors, to bring their children or grandchildren and participate in the event first-hand
  • Promote the contest at all station literacy-themed workshops; KNPB hosts writing workshops throughout the year in classrooms and community organizations, working with local school districts, homeschool and moms groups, the Boys and Girls Club, and the local children's museum, among others.

This approach has achieved important gains for the station, in both the short- and long-term, including:

  • An increase in the number of entries to the annual Writers Contest. 
  • Happy sponsors: the launch party and subsequent events generate a significant amount of foot traffic for the local businesses
  • Meaningful engagement with local parents and kids around PBS KIDS content and curriculum
  • Increased awareness and engagement of stakeholders, contributing to gains in foundation and other funding
  • Effective use of the Writers Contest as a high-profile anchor for the station's overall literacy commitment. In 2015, KNPB has reached over 4,500 children to date via writing workshops and events.   
  • A working model for other community workshops and events, around other PBS KIDS curriculum priorities, such as STEM and social-emotional development.

KNPB also works to sustain visibility for the contest throughout the year, which has helped secure additional community support. For example: 

  • A corporate partnership with the local airport displays the winning entries during the busy summer travel season and brings in corporate revenue for the station. 
  • This year, KNPB generated corporate support from over 14 local businesses and 7 foundation funders. A full list is available here
  • A high-profile reception for the winners at the station attracts interest from stakeholders and donors
  • Video footage of the winners at the reception is turned into on-air interstitials, providing additional cause-related inventory for the KNPB underwriting team
Check out this on-air post featuring first-place winner Samantha:

KNPB continues to refine its community workshop model, increasing the number and scope of its offerings, and identifying community partners –including the local Teachers College and the Boys and Girls Club, among others -- to help deliver and increase the impact of these community outreach events.  As a result, KNPB is building a reputation among like-minded partners as a go-to resource for educational content that goes beyond broadcast to make a difference in the local community.   

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