Is Sesame Street Educational?

Sarah Riley UNID 1129762

Is Sesame Street Educational?

I chose to write about Sesame Street. “November 1999 marks the 30th anniversary of the premiere of Sesame Street on American television. For 30 years, Sesame Street has entertained and enlightened children across the United States and around the world” (Fisch, Truglio & Cole. 2001). This is one of the reasons I chose to research Sesame Street; it has been around for so many years and I watched it and loved it as a child. I wanted to take the opportunity to be able to learn about what makes this show so popular. It has stuck around for years and is supposed to be very educational. I wanted to see if I could find what aspects make this show so successful. Is has also become popular in other countries over the years because it has so much success on being educational for children. Watching television is such a controversial topic these days in relation to children. This is another reason I wanted to learn more about what makes a television show a successful educational tool. If it was not providing high success rate in educating children I do not think it would be around as long as it has and produced in different countries as well and different languages.

Sesame Street was intended for preschoolers, younger children to get them ready for school. As well as low-income and minority children, to help them get ready for school. The goal of the show was to help prepare children for school; not just academically with numbers and letters, but socially with interpersonal skills, self-confidence and help build skills that would help children in a peer setting like cooperation. It was also to help with children growing up in low-income families who do not always have an equal opportunity to education, by helping them receive more of a chance to learn that does not cost anything. Among low-income and minority families there is a higher chance they will not get the pre-education to prepare them for school and social situations because their parents most likely are working more and are not around as much to provide as many learning opportunities. They also are most likely to not have as much access to higher quality learning toys and tools as some other children may have to help them prepare for school.

There have been many researches done with children who watch or have watched Sesame Street. The educational impact of Sesame Street was first documented in a pair of studies conducted by the Educational Testing Service (ETS; Ball & Bogatz, 1970; Bogatz & Ball, 1971). This study focused on children ranging from 3-5 year olds, some were encouraged to watch Sesame Street whether in school or at home and some were not. They studied 1,000 children and most of which were to be considered to have disadvantaged backgrounds. The study lasted 26 weeks, the children watched Sesame Street from about 1- more than 5 times in a week. Children were tested before and after the 26 weeks by extensive battery of measures that covered several dimensions: knowledge of the alphabet and numbers, names of body parts, recognition of forms, knowledge of relational terms, and sorting and classification skills. They found the more the child had watched the show had the greatest gains. These results ranged the same across all children in the study. The University of Kansas did a longitudinal study that was more recent and I found very interesting. They tested children at a few different ages over the years up into high school. When they tested these children in preschool they “spent more time reading and engaged in educational activities. In addition, these children performed significantly better than their peers on age-appropriate standardized achievement tests of letter-word knowledge, mathematics skills, vocabulary size, and school readiness” (Fisch, Truglio & Cole. 20011). University of Kansas and the University of Massachusetts conducted a study together of high school students who had watched Sesame Street when they were in preschool. The results showed the children who did watch the show had a significant impact on their academics in school. Those who watched Sesame Street had higher grades in math, science and English.

Sesame Street does not only show a positive impact on academic skills, but social behaviors as well. It helps children so much in their social environment. It helps them become more cooperative, learn their different social settings, work well with other peers, identifying other people’s roles in society and much more. This is another example of how it helps prepare children for school because it helps teach them how to react in social environments and work with peers. Sesame Street also helps touch on tough social situations and explain them in a way a child can understand without making it scary or complicate. This also helps parents learn to talk to their kids and explain situations to them. One of the examples of this in the article was death of a long-time character on the show and was a close friend to many of the characters on the show. Marriage, love, divorce, race-relations, adoption are a few more examples that the show helps explain along with much more.

Sesame Street has been around for over forty years now. It has expanded to Mexico, Brazil, Canada and Germany as well. I do not think it would have stuck around for so many years if it was not showing such great success rates. There are many researches done in regards to the show. I was not aware of all the many things Sesame Street teaches and helps children with. It is a very useful, educational opportunity for children and parents as well. It helps touch on difficult social situations to help parents in explaining and having a better idea how to handle difficult situations with their child. It provides children with social and academic skills helping to prepare them for school. If they do not learn as much academically it definitely helps children become more comfortable, prepared and aware for society and social situations.

 

References

Fisch, S., Truglio, R. T., Cole, C. F., (2001). The impact of Sesame Street on preschool children: A review and synthesis of 30 years’ research.

doi: http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.lib.utah.edu/10.1207/s1532785xmep0102_5

Here is a preview for a Sesame Street episode for numbers.

Here is Michelle Obama talking about the importance of healthy breakfast

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7 thoughts on “Is Sesame Street Educational?

  1. Rachel Roach 0973427

    Sarah,
    I really liked your article! It was very interesting the studies that you found. I thought it was interesting that the kids who watched Sesame Street when they were young did better in classes like math, science, and english when they were in high school. That’s crazy that because they watched a show when they were 2-5 years old it made it so they were more prepared for those particular classes. Overall, you did a great job on explaining the impact and importance of Sesame Street for children.

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    1. Chelsea Borelo u0876703

      Sarah,
      I found your article very fascinating! I watched Sesame Street all throughout my childhood and absolutely loved it. All of the lovable characters made learning so easy and fun and it is a show that I still adore to this day. It was very interesting to me that you discussed the social benefits of Sesame Street as well as the academic benefits. When I think about Sesame Street, I automatically think about the school related subjects that it taught me but I never really considered the social issues that it touched on. I think it is definitely accurate to say that Sesame Street helps with social development and helps children understand social and family related issues which is so important. This is a well thought out article about a great show and it really helps explain why this show is so loved still to this day!

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      1. Sesame Street was definitely one of my top watches as a child, so I was excited to see the results in your blog post to whether or not it is beneficial. I had just assumed that one benefit of the show would be the way it portrayed social issues. It was nice to confirm that assumption according to what you found, and it was good to learn that it also aided in academic achievement. It was mentioned in your post a couple times that this show was a way to reach those individuals with lower socioeconomic status, which I thought was awesome. That reminded me though that recently HBO bought the rights to the show, and I’m not sure if re-runs still air on PBS. That being said, I hope that they still play re-runs because I don’t think that HBO has a large disadvantaged viewership and that group is now losing out on their chance to benefit from the show.

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  2. Shianna Thompson u0896731

    Sesame Street was definitely one of my top watches as a child, so I was excited to see the results in your blog post to whether or not it is beneficial. I had just assumed that one benefit of the show would be the way it portrayed social issues. It was nice to confirm that assumption according to what you found, and it was good to learn that it also aided in academic achievement. It was mentioned in your post a couple times that this show was a way to reach those individuals with lower socioeconomic status, which I thought was awesome. That reminded me though that recently HBO bought the rights to the show, and I’m not sure if re-runs still air on PBS. That being said, I hope that they still play re-runs because I don’t think that HBO has a large disadvantaged viewership and that group is now losing out on their chance to benefit from the show. ( Sorry I posted this twice It wouldn’t let me edit it to add my name and UID)

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  3. Hannah Twede- u0741064

    This is a super interesting subject, as Sesame Street is so well known! As you shared, Sesame Street is helpful as far as academic learning, which is what I would expect, but it was nice to have that information confirmed. What I really loved was that you touched on something that is, in my opinion, just as important and book smarts; Social skills/development. I believe that children are almost being set up to be lacking in their social skills with all of the available technology in the world today. It is important during this transition to keep fundamental skill learning at the core of what we are trying to accomplish for ALL children, regardless of their socioeconomic status as you mentioned. With such a large, diverse (but equally important audience) it is refreshing to hear that, rather than just entertainment, Sesame Street and similar shows are still able to integrate the teaching of very valuable life and academic skills into their programs. I would be interested to see if this pattern can continue to be replicated, or if other shows will sacrifice offering this important education for entertainment value. I really enjoyed your post!

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  4. I think it’s great that Sesame Street kept for low-income and minority families in mind when creating their content. Sesame Street is clearly a very beneficial television program, showing improvements in both social and educational development in the children that viewed the program. Sesame Street is a very slow moving show, like Mr. Rodgers, so I can see how it could be more beneficial to watch than the fast-paced cartoons that seem to be all over television today. It does seem like the study you cited is fairly old though. Sesame Street seems to have changed a lot from what it was in 2001. From my experience watching the show lately, it seems as though it’s become more fast paced and there seems to be more animated segments. Also, Sesame Street has recently signed a deal with HBO, so the shows new content will only air on HBO. Unfortunately, HBO is not a free television network, so many low-income and minority children will probably not be able to view new episodes of this show. This seems to contradict the creators intent of creating a show for low-income, minority children. It would be interesting to have this study replicated today, and see if the show reaps the same benefits even with the content changes. Also, it would be interesting to see if the viewer demographics of this show has changed over the years, especially with the new HBO deal.

    Courtney Stormann
    u0928451

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  5. Alexis My U1009709

    This was a great topic choice! I remember watching Sesame Street as a child and loving it. I believe that it did help me in academic achievement. However, I also had parents that were very involved in my education which could also be a leading factor in why I did well in school. Besides academics, I am glad that you discussed the social aspect of Sesame Street. I still remember learning about manners and being kind to others while watching Sesame Street. These social skills definitely helped me later on in life. Its crazy to think that watching a show as a child might actually make you perform better academically and socially later in life. I wonder if other studies have been done on other children’s shows such as Barney because Barney was also another show that I watched a lot as a child.

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