Sesame Street Celebrates 50 Years

Sesame Street Celebrates 50 Years

November 15, 20193 min read

Sesame Street, the longest-running children's show in American history, recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. 

Villanova's Emory Woodard, PhD, Dean of Graduate Studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, spent time working at Children's Television Workshop (now Sesame Workshop), the nonprofit organization that puts on Sesame Street. He reflects back on its legacy, its important focus on diversity and what lies ahead. 

Concerning the Program's Legacy

"Sesame Street transformed the landscape for educational television at a time when very few content producers were paying attention to quality content for children. The show has effectively reduced the school readiness gap and prepared millions for scholastic success."

On Special Memories

"My parents could not afford to send me to preschool but used Sesame Street to reinforce the literacy and numeracy skills they taught me. I have fond memories of learning to count with Count von Count, learning the alphabet with Cookie Monster and even getting phonetics lessons with Big Bird. I cannot tell you how much of a delight it was to have Big Bird speak at one of our Commencement Ceremonies...

"Perhaps more than the literacy and numeracy skills that I learned from Sesame Street, I remember the prosocial lessons of the show. At such a formative stage, I remember learning about sharing, cooperation and appreciating the differences between people."

On Sesame Street and Diversity

"Sesame Street has been keenly aware of the dual audiences it engages: children and their parents. At the preschool age, parents tend to be very involved in the media diet of their children. Sesame Street has taught a generation of parents to be more sensitive to issues of diversity."

On the Program's Future

"I think the future is bright. With the advent of increasingly diverse content distribution platforms (e.g., Netflix, Sling, Roku, Apple TV, etc.), the demand for quality content will remain strong. The makers of Sesame Street may have to be creative in figuring out how to support the production of their high-quality content while still serving their primary mission. Nonetheless, their longevity is a testament to the good thinkers they have charting the course to ongoing success.

"The partnership with HBO is an industry reality. The funding for public television remains under threat and the choice is to either fold or be financially creative. I am delighted that the makers of Sesame Street have chosen to be financially creative. Moreover, they chose to partner with an outlet that has demonstrated itself to be a purveyor of high-quality content. As long as that content is shared with platforms that are more accessible to the economically disadvantaged, I do not see this much differently than the decision to use television as a distribution platform that was not universally accessible back in the late 1960s.

"Sesame Street will remain relevant as long as they remain true to their original mission of bringing literacy and numeracy skills to disadvantaged populations through high-quality content. No one is and perhaps will ever be better at it than the makers of Sesame Street."

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