'Sesame Street' steps up to the biggest issues kids face

When "Sesame Street" debuted in the late 1960s, Americans understood poverty to be one of the biggest challe...

Posted: Dec 15, 2018 10:35 AM
Updated: Dec 15, 2018 10:35 AM

When "Sesame Street" debuted in the late 1960s, Americans understood poverty to be one of the biggest challenges facing families, and public energy to fight poverty abounded in President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society initiatives and Martin Luther King Jr.'s Poor People's Campaign activism. The founders of the nonprofit production company Children's Television Workshop tapped into this energy and created "Sesame Street" with the intention that it could serve as a tool to fight poverty.

Now "Sesame Street" is bringing forward a new storyline that fits squarely into that tradition. In America, an increasing number of young children are facing homelessness -- and now, they will see that part of themselves on "Sesame Street." Lily, a 7-year-old Muppet, joined the show in 2011; she and her family were originally described as food-insecure. Lily has joined Elmo, Rosita and the gang in a series of resource videos and activities created to help preschoolers and their caregivers cope with the upheaval of homelessness.

Animals

Arts and entertainment

Birds

Children

Children's programming

Companies

Demographic groups

Education

Families and children

Family members and relatives

Homelessness

Life forms

Population and demographics

Poverty

Poverty and homelessness

Sesame Workshop

Social and economic status

Societal issues

Society

Television programming

Viewers young and old have come to know "Sesame Street" as the kind of place that comes with you wherever you go, broadcast right into your living room, carried with you as a Big Bird doll or a copy of "The Monster at the End of This Book" or streamed onto your phone. "Sesame Street" is part of many of our homes, and characters like Big Bird, Grover and Cookie Monster are, for a number of us, among our oldest friends.

The program's unprecedented broadcast run -- it debuted in 1969 and its 50th season will air next year -- has made it one of the most enduring institutions of American culture.

As Lily shares her hopes and fears, and as her neighbors learn of her struggles and remind her of their love, they all demonstrate strategies for defining home not as a specific location but as the environment created by family and community. In the process, "Sesame Street" is providing support for those facing homelessness while equipping communities nationwide to offer greater friendship and understanding to young children enduring times of transition and dislocation of all kinds. The discussion of homelessness is an important continuation of the program's founding mission to be an instrument of social education and a resource for children, their caregivers and their educators to overcome adversity.

Their idea was that by offering universal preschool education through a medium that nearly all impoverished families could already access, and by creating a city setting and a pop culture-infused ambiance that specifically welcomed urban minority children and encouraged them to enjoy learning, they could help prime those children for success in school. Education, and the doors it opened, would eventually be those children's ticket out of poverty. Research shows that "Sesame Street" has helped prepare children, especially boys and those living in disadvantaged areas, for school.

Throughout its run, "Sesame Street" has woven relatable messages about social challenges kids face into regular episodes alongside lessons on literacy, math and cooperation. People who grew up in the 1970s may remember musician Buffy Sainte-Marie helping Big Bird understand that adults' attention to a new baby did not diminish their love for an older child. Those who watched in the 1980s learned about death when Big Bird came to terms with the passing of beloved storekeeper Mr. Hooper. Children of the 1990s saw teenagers Gina and Savion stand up for interracial friendships, and those who watched more recently saw Big Bird overcome the terrible feeling of being bullied.

To tackle particularly delicate or frightening subjects, "Sesame Street" often created special initiatives and resources beyond its broadcast content. Before the age of the internet, these efforts included a bilingual radio campaign to promote vaccination, the distribution of 45 rpm records and Bert and Ernie hand puppets to aid local demonstrations of fire safety and disaster preparedness, a Sesame-style remodel of prison visiting rooms in Texas along with training nonviolent inmates in child development to make visiting an incarcerated parent less scary, and an extensive program to recruit a grassroots network of volunteer caregivers in cities from Boston to Los Angeles to use "Sesame Street" to infuse education into daycare.

A whole branch of the Workshop, initially called "Utilization," then "Community Education Services," and more recently reborn as the "Social Impact & Philanthropy" division, focuses on helping parents and educators use the television show and these other materials to support their own efforts to help children grow. The initiative on coping with homelessness joins Sesame Workshop's more recent endeavors to provide free streaming video and downloadable print resources, available online, for families dealing with military deployment, an incarcerated parent and food insecurity, among other challenges. The initiative on homelessness supports families' attempts to foster the stability and continuity children need to succeed intellectually. It also dovetails with Sesame Workshop's major new project to create educational resources for uprooted children worldwide: its collaboration with the International Rescue Committee to use media to reach Syrian and Rohingya refugees in what will be the largest early childhood education intervention in the history of humanitarian aid.

For 50 years, "Sesame Street" has used media to create a community defined not by a physical location but by beloved characters on screen and the public service efforts of its staff in supporting educators and families face a variety of challenges. The program has undoubtedly aided many children over the years, but despite the nation's mid=century optimism that we were close to eradicating such hardship among our citizens, poverty remains a widespread problem in 2018.

Because its characters provide continuity not only through a child's development, but across generations, "Sesame Street" is uniquely positioned to support families who are struggling to bring stability to their lives.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 71015

Reported Deaths: 3013
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion15322723
Lake7343274
Elkhart471380
Allen3725160
St. Joseph330179
Hamilton2610104
Vanderburgh184213
Hendricks1814106
Cass17669
Johnson1694118
Porter123839
Clark114846
Tippecanoe114611
Madison89565
LaPorte86930
Howard85565
Kosciusko82712
Marshall75822
Bartholomew75447
Floyd74045
Monroe70830
Delaware68052
Dubois65812
Boone65346
Noble64529
Hancock63838
Jackson5625
LaGrange55410
Warrick55330
Vigo54310
Shelby53527
Grant52029
Dearborn47928
Morgan45134
Clinton4043
Henry36919
White35110
Montgomery34621
Wayne34610
Lawrence33727
Decatur32432
Harrison30923
Putnam2778
Miami2642
Daviess25920
Scott25710
Greene24134
Franklin23413
DeKalb2234
Jasper2192
Jennings21512
Gibson2084
Steuben2043
Ripley1947
Perry17912
Fayette1777
Starke1747
Orange16624
Posey1650
Wabash1613
Fulton1592
Carroll1572
Wells1542
Jefferson1532
Whitley1476
Knox1420
Tipton1296
Huntington1213
Washington1211
Spencer1193
Newton11410
Randolph1144
Clay1045
Sullivan911
Adams892
Jay840
Owen831
Pulaski751
Brown711
Rush714
Fountain642
Benton600
Blackford592
Ohio574
Pike520
Parke501
Vermillion480
Crawford440
Switzerland440
Martin420
Union350
Warren201
Unassigned0202

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 97471

Reported Deaths: 3618
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin17834521
Cuyahoga13141491
Hamilton9374252
Lucas5155320
Montgomery417487
Summit3433218
Marion291045
Butler282262
Mahoning2477254
Pickaway237842
Stark1766137
Warren171136
Lorain168977
Columbiana161860
Trumbull1481105
Fairfield130931
Delaware126319
Licking120247
Clark111514
Lake107338
Wood99358
Clermont89211
Medina88735
Miami81137
Tuscarawas76214
Portage74361
Allen69942
Greene65611
Belmont59226
Richland58911
Mercer57313
Erie55627
Ashtabula55045
Geauga54844
Wayne51958
Ross4444
Huron3885
Ottawa36825
Sandusky36316
Darke36027
Athens3531
Hancock3533
Madison34910
Holmes3266
Lawrence2420
Auglaize2395
Union2331
Jefferson2192
Muskingum2151
Scioto2111
Putnam19917
Washington19822
Knox1917
Seneca1903
Coshocton1886
Shelby1774
Preble1762
Crawford1715
Morrow1652
Hardin15912
Clinton1586
Champaign1571
Highland1461
Fulton1441
Logan1402
Ashland1373
Wyandot1368
Defiance1334
Williams1303
Brown1232
Perry1163
Guernsey1147
Hocking1149
Henry1132
Carroll1105
Fayette1090
Monroe9118
Pike750
Jackson730
Van Wert701
Paulding640
Gallia621
Adams592
Meigs330
Vinton302
Morgan230
Harrison221
Noble170
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Few Clouds
61° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 61°
Angola
Few Clouds
55° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 55°
Huntington
Broken Clouds
57° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 57°
Decatur
54° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 54°
Van Wert
54° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 54°
Sunny, Seasonable Saturday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events