For two cohorts of children from low- to moderate-income families, time-use diaries of television viewing were collected over 3 years (from ages 2-5 and 4-7 years, respectively), and tests of reading, math, receptive vocabulary, and school readiness were administered annually. Relations between viewing and performance were tested in path analyses with controls for home environment quality and primary language (English or Spanish). Viewing child-audience informative programs between ages 2 and 3 predicted high subsequent performance on all four measures of academic skills. For both cohorts, frequent viewers of general-audience programs performed more poorly on subsequent tests than did infrequent viewers of such programs. Children's skills also predicted later viewing, supporting a bidirectional model. Children with good skills at age 5 selected more child-audience informative programs and fewer cartoons in their early elementary years. Children with lower skills at age 3 shifted to viewing more general-audience programs by ages 4 and 5. The results affirm the conclusion that the relations of television viewed to early academic skills depend primarily on the content of the programs viewed.