Children's Television Workshop, the educational production company responsible for bringing "Sesame Street" to public television, has announced it would begin work on an ambitious new series intended to improve children's reading and writing skills.
The series, called "The Ghostwriter," is scheduled to begin on PBS stations in fall 1992. The target audience will be children 7 to 10 years old.
CTW announced the beginning of production after receiving a commitment for a $5 million grant from Nike Inc., the maker of athletic shoes.
Nana Griller, the assistant director of information at CTW, said the Nike grant was the largest single corporate donation ever made to a children's television show.
The show's overall budget will be $20 million for 48 episodes, with about $8.8 million coming from PBS and Children's Television Workshop, and the rest from other foundation and government sources.
Richard K. Donahue, president of Nike, said the company would also help promote the project. He said that could mean guest appearancesby some of the athletes, including Michael Jordan, Bo Jackson and David Robinson, who have endorsed Nike products.
Nike decided to be the sole corporate backer of the series as part of a larger program aimed at advocating education for inner-city children, Mr. Donahue said.
He said the company's commitment in this area had been long-standing and was not related to recent criticism for urging children to buy expensive athletic shoes, a charge he called a "canard."
The executive producer of "The Ghostwriter" is Elizabeth Nealon, formerly vice president of MTV International.
The show's stylistic approach will incorporate visual and musical techniques borrowed from MTV, Ms. Griller said. The format will also use graphics to make the reading of print on screen more entertaining.
The stories will center on six children, three girls and three boys, and their interaction with an unseen ghost who can communicate with them only through writing.
Children's Television Workshop will also publish an accompanying magazine and teachers' materials, as well as computer games using the series' characters.