Mom Entrepreneurs Create Popular Discovery Kids' TV Show -- New Fright-Free Episode of 'Wilbur' Airs for Halloween

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Ten years ago, three moms from San Diego were inspired to create a TV show about an adorable calf named Wilbur. Now "Wilbur" airs on Discovery Kids and TLC during the award-winning, commercial free Ready, Set, Learn! block of preschool programming. Wilbur gets kids excited about reading and books, and uses books to solve problems. A special all-new, fright-free Halloween episode airs Oct. 29 on Discovery Kids and Oct. 31 on TLC.

New Fright-Free Episode of Wilbur Airs Oct. 29th on Discovery Kids

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Ten years ago three moms from San Diego were raising small children and noticed that there was limited television programming for preschoolers. Around this same time, they visited a friend's farm and met an adorable young calf named Wilbur. Their kids fell in love with Wilbur and his farm, and the moms thought that this was the perfect setting for a preschool program.

The budding mom entrepreneurs, Kim Anton, Jill Luedtke and Tracey Hornbuckle (who had left full-time jobs to raise their children) then set up a production company in their hometown of San Diego. The moms created three children's videos starring Wilbur the Calf and distributed the videos and Wilbur plush toys out of one of their garages. Wilbur videos were an instant success winning many awards and receiving rave reviews from educators, parents and the media.

With the video success came offers from major studios for a Wilbur TV show, but the mom creators would have to relinquish creative control and that was not an option. They wanted the Wilbur to remain true to their vision of a show that gets early learners excited about books and reading.

After an incredible ten years filled with seeking financial backing; researching television production, and distribution; and learning about puppet technology, WILBUR debuted this past April on Discovery Kids (11:00 a.m. ET) and TLC (7:30 a.m. ET/PT) during the award-winning, commercial free Ready Set Learn! block of preschool programming.

A new, fright-free Halloween episode of WILBUR airs Oct. 29 on Discovery KIds and on Oct. 31 on TLC. In this "Funny Dress-Up Night" episode, Wilbur and his friends are hosting a costume party of their own. Hilarious costumes abound, but Wilbur's friend Dasha hasn't found one yet and the party is about to start! Wilbur reads a story that helps Dasha learn that using your imagination can sometimes be the trick (or treat) that solves the problem.

"Although we didn't have television experience we brought other skills to the project," says Tracey Hornbuckle, one of the moms who created Wilbur. "I had an advertising and sales background at the New Yorker Magazine, which taught me dedication and tenacity. Kim worked in sales and marketing in the financial industry, which helped with the business development and Jill's experience in business law came in handy with the contracts and negotiations!"

As stay-at-home moms and running a business, they relied on each other to fill in when someone wasn't available. "We were able to balance our work schedules with raising families because we relied on each other and trusted each other to handle whatever problem arose," said Hornbuckle. "And throughout it all we remained best friends."

Although WILBUR was produced and filmed in Canada, technology and computers enabled the moms to be part of the daily operation--music scores were sent via mp3 files, episodes were sent via ftp sites, and visual images were sent as jpeg files. This allowed for the flexibility to raise young children and maintain the business.

WILBUR fills a void in the current preschool TV landscape because it teaches preschoolers about books. "We always wanted to create a series that read an original story to children every day. There's still a need in the children's marketplace for storybook reading that enhances early literacy skills and creates a love of books and reading," said Hornbuckle.

These mom entrepreneurs thought that it was important to have early literacy as an overriding theme in the show because "decades of research have shown that there are dramatic positive benefits of reading storybooks to children," says Luedtke. "One of the cornerstones of early literacy activities is storybook reading and that's the focus of Wilbur. Wilbur demonstrates how books are utilized, the function of print, how to read from left to right, how to turn pages right to left, and how you start at the top of the page and read down."

What's unique about Wilbur is that he utilizes the print on the screen and tracks each word with his hoof to demonstrate the function of print. The storybooks on the show are written in rhyming couplets because that is the style of prose that children typically gravitate to and can learn the best from at their early ages."

The books also teach children that books are full of ideas. In each episode, Wilbur and his barnyard friends always go to a book to solve a dilemma they are experiencing on the farm.

The moms will tell you that a child who watches WILBUR will learn that books are fun! The show installs a love of books and reading in children and motivates them to want to read more. As Wilbur says "Books are Mooovelous!"

READY SET LEARN! is an award-winning, commercial-free programming block with a curriculum that acknowledges preschoolers' innate curiosity and is designed to foster optimism and resilience in their expanding exploration of the world. It airs on both TLC and the Discovery Kids Channel. Discovery Kids Channel lets kids of all ages (from preschoolers to tweens and teens) explore their world from their point of view. This 24-hour digital cable channel provides entertaining, engaging, and high-quality real-world programming that kids enjoy and parents trust. Every day, kids can learn about science, adventure, exploration and natural history through documentaries, reality shows, scripted dramas and animated stories. Garnering multiple Emmys® as well as awards for quality children's television, Discovery Kids is committed to satisfying kids' natural curiosity about ... well ... everything.

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ANDREA BLAIN
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