Forty-four years ago today, Gordon took a girl named Sally on a tour of Sesame Street. Gordon introduced Sally and public television viewers to Sesame Street’s Muppets and human residents. In the first episode, Sally exclaims that she’s “never seen a street like Sesame Street.” Neither had America.
Americans had never met characters like Big Bird or Cookie Monster. Americans had never sat in on a letter “W” lecture by Kermit the Frog. Americans had never watched the animated “Number Song Series.” Jim Henson’s Muppets, songs, animation, celebrities, cultural references and deep empathy for children grabbed our attention.
Sesame Street’s creators Joan Ganz Cooney and Lloyd Morrisett founded the program to give disadvantaged children the same opportunities as middle class children. Forty-four years later, Sesame Street continues to educate, support and entertain all children through media, Muppets, research and new technology. Children continue to connect with the program because it understands them and what they need. It’s their teacher and loyal support system. It’s constantly changing to meet their needs, and it’s making a huge difference. And parents know that they can trust Sesame Street‘s educational content.
Over the years, Sesame Street has tackled many issues and realities for children. Oftentimes, it was the first children’s program to do so. In 1975, Sesame Street was the first program to have a child with Down Syndrome appear on a children’s television show. In 1983,the program discussed death and grieving in “Farewell, Mr. Hooper” after the actor who played Mr. Hooper passed away. Sesame Street has held millions of children’s hands through tough issues they face at home like poverty, divorce, military deployment and incarceration. The program has also helped children cope with scary issues in real time. The You Can Ask toolkit was created in the wake of September 11, 2001 to help children overcome fear, stress and shock, and is regularly updated to address current events that impact children. And this only scratches the surface of the many issues both local and national, that Sesame Street has addressed during its history.
In addition to the program, Sesame Street provides many materials to help children. Children can play online and mobile games to reinforce the lessons they learn on the show. Sesame Street also offers many resources for parents including toolkits, recipes, crafts and more.
Studies show that Sesame Street is improving the lives of children. Children who watch Sesame Street often at age two score higher on school-readiness tests in kindergarten than those who don’t. These advantages helped children succeed beyond preschool. Another study found that frequent Sesame Street viewing in preschool is associated with high school grade point averages in high school that are almost 16% higher than those children who didn’t grow up watching the program. The program’s reach goes beyond ABC and 123. The program also helps build children’s social skills, encourages healthy choices and promotes respect and understanding. In fact, children who watch Sesame Street episodes that had positive social messages showed much higher levels of positive social behavior than those who did not watch.
For 44 years, Sesame Street has chosen to show its program on public television because local stations are committed to building stronger, smarter communities. Sesame Street plays an important role in helping generations of viewers have a successful start in the classroom regardless of their economic situation at home.
During its history, the show’s format has changed and we’ve had to say hello and goodbye to some of our favorite characters and animation series. However, one thing remains the same: Sesame Street is committed to helping all children succeed today and tomorrow. Thank you, Sesame Street, for 44 years of sunny days. We look forward to many more years of being able to count on you.
How has Sesame Street impacted your life? Tell us in the comments below!