Bob McGrath, Emilio Delgado (“Luis”) and Roscoe Orman (“Gordon”) remain a beloved part of the Sesame family and continue to represent us at public events. To us, and for millions of people worldwide, they are a treasured part of Sesame Street. Since the show began, we are constantly evolving our content and curriculum, and hence, our characters, to meet the educational needs of children. As a result of this, our cast has changed over the years, though you can still expect to see many of them in upcoming productions. As we’ve stated previously, Sesame Workshop retains sole creative control over the show. HBO does not oversee the production.
During or after disasters, many families suffer from the onset of sudden stress. Such times may be particularly difficult for preschoolers who may not understand all that is going on around them. Whether a hurricane, tornado, or other stressful events, here are some suggestions for helping children cope, be better able to overcome obstacles, and become more resilient.
Calm your own fears first and reassure your children. As parents and caregivers, it is important to first calm your own fears before talking with your children. Children will react to your level of fear and anxiety. Children need to be reassured that their parents and caretakers have their family life under control. It’s important to maintain close contact with your children and provide physical comfort (e.g., hugs), as well as verbal reassurance (e.g., that you—their parents and caregivers—will keep them secure). Your children may be clingy or more in need of attention than at other times. That’s OK. Try to spend time with them and be reassuring about your presence and their safety. Explain that they are safe with you and that good people are in charge. Spend time together engaged in soothing activities such as holding hands, taking a walk, or sharing a cup of hot chocolate.
Listen to your children in each and every way. Your children may express their feelings through actions rather than words. For example, children may develop a new fear of loud noises, be less interested in playing with other children, or develop stomachaches and headaches. Fear, loss, anger and sadness are all normal reactions for children living through times of stress. Is important to validate children’s feelings and help them develop constructive ways of expressing such emotions. Remember that all children are different and that your goal is to be patient, understanding, reassuring, and accepting.
Try to keep a normal routine. Children feel secure when life is as stable and predictable. To the degree possible, stick to your usual schedules and routines, allowing some flexibility (e.g., it’s fine to spend a little extra time tucking your child in at bedtime). This will help children to keep calm and maintain their sense of safety. Allow children to participate in the activities that they have always enjoyed with the people they cherish. Talking to your child’s teacher, friends, and neighbors may help you plan how to make such routine possible.
Promote positive action. Discuss activities you can do together to feel better. There are many activities that children can do that help them express their emotions as well as help them readjust. You can suggest that your children write a story about what happened, draw a picture, play with clay or playdough, engage in a physical activity, read a favorite story, put on favorite music and dance, and volunteer and contribute in the neighborhood. Allow children choices and decision-making power in these activities so that they can maintain a sense of control and foster comfort in their immediate environment.
Connect with others. Ensure that children receive affection and attention, not just by those in their immediate home, but by extended family, friends, and neighbors. This is the time to reach out to others with visits, phone calls, and letters.
We’re thrilled to announce a new partnership that will bring Sesame Street’s autism resources in front of The Mighty‘s wide-reaching readership. See Amazing will now appear on many of The Mighty’s autism posts, enabling people to get involved with us when they’re feeling inspired and ready to take action.
The Mighty is a story-based health community focused on improving the lives of people facing disease, disorder and disability. More than half of Americans are facing serious health conditions or medical issues. They want more than information. They want to be inspired. The Mighty publishes real stories about real people facing real challenges.
We’re focused on helping children affected by autism, and partnering with The Mighty will enable us to help even more people.
On Wednesday June 17th, our newest member of the Sesame Street family, Raya traveled to Washington DC to spread the word to children and adults about the importance of using toilets, washing hands with soap, and using clean water. Her first stop was a visit with President of The World Bank, Dr. Jim Kim, where she talked about the important role that kids can play in global development. Hundreds of World Bank staffers, supporters, and children of WBG employees joined the event that was streamed live for over 700 people.
The World Bank has continued to support the development of water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) infrastructure in many areas of the world where children lack access to improved toilets or water sources. Sesame Street has a unique opportunity to complement the World Bank’s provision of toilets and wells with our research driven expertise in delivering educational messaging – triggering important WASH-related behavior change such as washing hands and wearing sandals to the toilet. In the words of Sesame Workshop CEO Jeffrey Dunn, “We’re the software and the World Bank is the hardware.”
With Raya as Sesame’s first-ever Global Health Ambassador, Sesame Street has committed to taking on the role of developing WASH “software” such as content, print and video materials, and health education programs for children in the most vulnerable areas. Raya’s visit on Wednesday allowed her, Sesame Street friend Count von Count, World Bank Group President Dr. Jim Yong Kim, and Sesame Workshop President and CEO Jeffrey D. Dunn to talk to the World Bank family about the role that children play as active change agents in improving healthy habits in their communities.
Dr. Kim hopes that the World Bank’s partnership with Sesame Street will reach beyond sanitation. He elaborates, “I watched Sesame Street when I was young, and then for the last 15 years — I have a 15-year-old and a 6-year-old — I’ve been watching Sesame Street almost daily. And I can tell you that the very careful marriage of important themes that focus on social cohesion and kindness and including everyone, these are messages that have had a huge impact on my children, and even on me.” Dr. Kim hopes to work with Sesame Workshop not only on the issue of water and sanitation but also to support and amplify messages for children in order to, “pursue our twin goals of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity.” Raya and the Count had a special meet and greet with Dr. Kim, answering questions from children and adults, and Raya even sang her favorite hand washing song.
Later in the afternoon, Raya was honored to sign the Women for Water & Sanitation Declaration with the Global Poverty Project and the UN Foundation in the Cannon House Office Building. There were over 110 congressional staffers in the room wherein Raya once again highlighted her messages about sanitation and hygiene. She spoke about the importance of clean water, proper hygiene, and sanitation for kids – especially girls. Raya also had a chance to listen to WASH advocates such as Congressman Poe (R-TX) and Katie Taylor of USAID.
Look out for more information on our emerging partnership with The World Bank in the coming months, and be sure follow Raya’s worldwide WASH adventures on her Instagram account @SesameRaya.
By Dan Lewis
Last week, we presented Ambassador Samantha Power with the Joan Ganz Cooney Award for her work as a champion of women and girls around the world. She spoke about how Sesame Street impacted her life – as a child, as a parent, and as the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nation. Her complete remarks are available below.
Thank you Joan for that very generous – overly generous introduction – and much more importantly, for having the smarts, the drive, and the imagination to help create Sesame Street nearly five decades ago. I’m hugely honored and very humbled to be up here and will just say a few words about what Sesame Street meant to me and what it means in the world.
I was born in 1970, the year after Sesame Street was founded. I spent the first nine years of my life in Ireland, was born to Irish parents. And we didn’t have many American imports to Ireland back then. We had Chevon gas, we had Coca Cola, and we had Sesame Street. We had three channels on our TV and two of them showed programming that was in Irish, in Gaelic, much of the time. While that was a worthy effort on the part of the government not everybody was super fluent in Gaelic. And so it has to be said that Sesame Street which was on the third channel, was something of a salvation. And so I want to say a personal thanks to Joan because Sesame Street was my first introduction really to America.
And now I get to represent the United States at the United Nations and I just think it’s an extraordinary life journey to have been exposed to the diversity and wonderment in a way of this country and then to be here even for 30 seconds sharing the stage with Joan is extraordinary, as you can imagine.
As many of you in the audience know Sesame Workshop’s philosophy is founded on the idea that what kids see from a very young age has an outsized impact or imprint as we heard on the rest of their lives. And that is not only true for literacy and numeracy, but also for values.
And I see this with my own two small kids. I have a daughter who’s two named Rian and a six year old named Declan. And I make a point with my two kids of talking with them of about what I am doing in my day job. I do this in part because I myself saw through Sesame Street and through the way my mother, who is a physician, talked to me about her values and about her patients treating me early on as if I was kind of up for kind of hearing about what was going on during the day with her. In my case, it can have some slightly problematic consequences. I’ll give just one example here tonight. Which is when President Obama negotiated the beginnings of the Cuba normalization process, we were, of course, all sworn to secrecy, but I was bursting with this information and with this potential breakthrough.
So I decided to engage my then five year old Declan, as a Sesame Street adult would do, treating him with respect and seeing his dignity and his ability to take on new information. And he asked all the right questions. Where is Cuba? What’s an embargo? What did they ever do to us?
And all of it went very well. I felt I got to share this news. He seemed to get it and seemed very excited himself in his own way. But about 7 hours later I was at the office and I got a call from the school nurse and he been involved in some rough play on the playground and been kicked in the nose and had a bloody nose and the school nurse was calling of course to tell me that; and he grabbed the phone from her the boy he was playing with his name was Sawyer, and he said “Mommy, Sawyer needs an embargo.” I think that’s a bit of Sesame Street parenting to takeaway, but I do wonder everyday whether or not we wouldn’t in fact have world peace if more of my counterparts hadn’t been groomed on Big Bird instead of perhaps Big Brother. And so I think the global reach Sesame Street is having is likely to have ramifications for many years to come.
Now one of the reasons that Sesame Street has been so effective in shaping kids is that it meets those kids where they are. Parts of Sesame Street look like their streets, and the parts that don’t, prepare them to walk down streets that don’t look like their streets with people who might look different than them or people who might come from a different neighborhood.
And it was no accident that when Sesame Street was launched in 1969 at time when there was a scarcity of African American male role models on television, the program created the character of Gordon Robinson, an African American to be the loving dad on the show. And while we may take for granted today and shouldn’t take for granted today, that a cast of furry Muppets could be joined by an African American family and a married couple named Louis and Maria, for its time this was ground breaking. And so much that has come since goes back to the decisions that Joan and her team made before it was fashionable.
This approach of meeting people where they are is something I try to do at the UN. It is a key part of the way President Obama asks his diplomats to go about their business in the world. We understand that America is stronger when we know how to see the world through the eyes of other countries, whether they are allies or adversaries, and when we do some listening as well as some speaking. And this can be done in some really small ways. The UN has 193 member states; most of whose streets look very different from ours; and since taking up my post I’ve tried to visit as many of the missions in the UN as possible. I’m up to about 120 missions. It’s their embassies. These are their homes. They put their pictures on the wall. They hang their art. It’s the books that they have carried with them often thousands of miles to put on their coffee tables. And I think in a way by going to them and meeting them on their street we show an America that actually respects and cares about the dignity of other countries. And I think that’s a version of Sesame Street diplomacy.
So finally, this approach of meeting people and physically and metaphorically where they are is what Sesame Workshop expansion into countries around the world is all about. And I know it’s been said here earlier this evening, it is one this for children in India to be told that proper sanitation will keep them healthy; it’s important. But it reaches kids in an entirely different way, when Rana, the fuzzy green Muppet girl on Galli Galli Sim Sim India’s version of Sesame Street explains to kids why she always wears sandals to protect her feet when she goes to the latrine.
It is one thing to tell girls in Nigeria and their families about the importance of getting an education; it resonates in an entirely different way when they see Kami, a bright yellow girl Muppet on Nigeria’s Sesame Square talking about how much she loves school and sports. These Muppets may be fuzzier than the normal kids but they speak their languages and they speak to the challenges in the world that so many are facing today. And in those fuzzy Muppets little Indian and Nigerian kids see themselves and they see what they are capable of just as my son and daughter do by watching Sesame Street; and just as I did as a little girl watching one my 3 channels and watching Joan’s tremendous creation. So I am incredibly grateful, and I thank you Joan for your leadership and I thank you all for this very kind honor. Thank you.
By Melissa Radcliff, Executive Director of Our Children’s Place
“Daddy, I never knew there were other kids with fathers in prison.”
I felt the lump in my throat and the tears in my eyes but I convinced myself I needed to keep it together at least until the session was over. I was leading a debriefing with a group of incarcerated men who had just participated in Parent Day with their visiting children. The day had been declared a success by all involved. Now the organizers were asking the men what they learned about their children, perhaps even something surprising, and what they would do differently next time.
We showed the fathers the Sesame Street DVD the night before Parent Day, then gave them the option of watching it with their children the next day. Some did, others didn’t. One of the men shared his daughter’s comment above. Her words reminded me again how isolated children of incarcerated parents can feel. Even more striking for me is that she said this after having spent a day with 22 other children who also have a father in prison.
We hope that giving that family the opportunity to watch the DVD has provided them with a starting point for future conversations. We have provided the kits to more than 700 individuals, organizations, and families across North Carolina who are looking to do just that: start the conversation in a low-key way, with the help of a known and respected entity, Sesame Street.
Thanks to a wonderful contact at the State Library of North Carolina, we have worked to make sure there is a Sesame Street toolkit in every public library branch across our state. Many of the library staff members have also attended regional workshops that provided information about these children and efforts across the state to support them. Our 2015 goal is to provide the kits to school libraries.
For those people who say to us,” I’ve never thought about these children, not because I don’t care but because no one’s asked me to,” the Sesame Street toolkit is our way of saying, “Please think about them.”
Children are surrounded by adults in their lives. Our job is to make sure that those people understand what it means for a child to have an incarcerated parent and what it takes to create a community where these children are recognized, supported, and encouraged to share their stories.
Last month, I was invited to speak about Sesame Street’s work around the world at the Mubadala Business Forum, where 300 international industry leaders attended. Mubadala is the primary sponsor of our Abu Dhabi based joint-venture, Bidaya Media, an organization dedicated to bringing Arabic educational TV programs to young children and their families in the region. Bidaya’s inaugural project is Iftah Ya Simsim, the Arabic version of the award-winning children’s series Sesame Street. Targeted to children ages 4-6, Iftah Ya Simsim is being locally produced to cater to the needs, culture, traditions, and will launch in 2015.
The talk was a big hit and received a great reception. I wanted to share it with you – it’s the Sesame story I like to tell!
By Kimberly Saccaro, IICF Midwest Executive Director
In 2013, the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation (IICF) launched a national partnership with Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind Sesame Street, called Every Day is a Reading and Writing Day in response to the wide gap in literacy rates between children of high and low income families. Our primary objective was to create impactful and meaningful experiences for children, caregivers, and IICF volunteers. What we have learned since our partnership began has been both surprising and inspiring.
Following the successful program launch in 2013, our focus has been engaging the insurance industry and working with our expansive networks to aid in the distribution of the Every Day is a Reading and Writing Day program materials. Industry engagement surged to record numbers during our recent Week of Giving, held across the country in mid-October.
Insurance industry volunteers, community partners, and municipalities came together during our 16th Annual Week of Giving to provide preschool-aged children and their caregivers the opportunity to experience the basic tenets of the Every Day is a Reading and Writing Day program – reading, writing and talking. In partnership with public libraries in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles and New York, over 5,000 children and caregivers took part in Every Day is a Reading and Writing Day activities throughout the week.
I had the opportunity to experience the Every Day is a Reading and Writing Day event first-hand in the Midwest at the Chicago Public Library. The day started with an excited and nervous energy as 200 volunteers from 20 different insurance companies gathered in the grand lobby of the Harold Washington Library in downtown Chicago. Industry volunteers received assignments as a “Buddy”, “Reading Station Volunteer”, or one of the other many volunteer roles. Others volunteers headed down to the bus arrival area to greet and escort the children upstairs. Remaining volunteers were teamed up with one of our nonprofit grantees, Bernie’s Book Bank, to prepare bags of books to be distributed to the children to take home with them after the event.
And then the children arrived. The broad and welcoming smiles exchanged between our volunteers and the 170 wide-eyed young children was an inspiring scene to witness. Children linking up with their Buddies, a children’s book author reading her book, and excited little ones shrieking with glee as they spotted Cookie Monster waiting to give them a hug. It was truly inspiring to see the positive reaction to all involved.
As I walked throughout the library photographing the conversations, drawing, and story-telling, I was struck by how these simple, every day activities were captivating the attention of not only the children in the room but their grown-up counterparts. It struck me how happy and engaged so many of the children seemed with an adult giving them their undivided attention during these every day moments.
This concept of “every day moments” having a significant impact on early literacy is something we learned from the knowledgeable research and program teams at Sesame Workshop during our partnership, but to witness it in action was a different story – it was surprising. Even as a mother of a five-year-old kindergartener, I was still surprised that so much impact could be made with such simple and relatively short activities. It occurred to me, in witnessing these every day moments between a child and a caring adult that had just met each other that day, early literacy is a group effort. It is our responsibility as a society, as parents, educators, business people, and corporations, to each do our part to help our youngest and most promising citizens become literate. Their future, and therefore our future as a society and economy, can be significantly and positively influenced by a collaborative community effort.
I am proud to be a part of an industry that both acknowledges this important social issue and is committed to taking action to bridge the gap in early literacy. We can do more, together and continue to support organizations like Sesame Workshop fulfill their mission to help all kids grow smarter, stronger and kinder.
2.6 billion people worldwide do not have access to safe toilets, and in some regions, more people have access to cell phones than to toilets. And even as we work to bring attention to that problem, we also need to work toward changing the attitudes, habits, and practices around water, sanitation, and hygiene. Raya is one of many voices leading the charge through Sesame Workshop’s WASH UP! initiative.
On Saturday, September 27, Raya attended the Global Citizen Festival, an event designed to bring global leaders, socially conscious celebrities and musicians, and thousands of concerned citizens together in an effort to end extreme poverty by 2030. Raya kicked the day off with Sesame Workshop’s Vice President, International, Stephen Sobhani, at MSNBC on Melissa Harris Perry.
She then moved on to the Global Citizen Festival in Central Park where she rocked out with 60,000 of her closest friends in New York to No Doubt and Jay Z. (And she grabbed a selfie along the way!)
At the concert, Raya and Elmo had a special meet and greet with Prime Minster of India, Narendra Modi and World Bank President, Dr. Jim Kim. Dr. Kim was eager to tell Elmo and Raya about how he and Prime Minster Modi would be cleaning the Ganges for children.
During the festival, a public service announcement highlighting proper latrine use was broadcast to the live audience and aired on MSNBC’s live festival coverage.
For more information on WASH Up!, click here.
Cheryl Baxter (pictured above) is a director and choreographer with Sesame Street Live. Here’s her look back at how she found her way to Sesame Street.
I have directed and choreographed shows for Sesame Street Live since 1996. Some years I may work on two or three shows during a season. “Let’s Dance!” is a different format than other shows we have done in the past. There will be more audience participation, and, for some of the numbers the characters will be in the audience teaching various dances!
I really enjoy the rehearsal process. The creative team has a vision first on paper, then the music and choreography is set, and then it’s put on the performers. We start creating the shows months before rehearsals start in August – it’s exciting when we see it come to life.
The new challenges the show poses is to build in enough time musically for the characters to come on and off of the audience floor. At times there are eight characters going from the stage and covering the floor to interact with as many audience members as possible; building extra time to get them back on stage to do their next number is important.
My annual visit to La Crosse has always been a special time for me personally. I now live in Los Angeles, but I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin about an hour away from La Crosse, so getting the opportunity to open a show near my hometown is fantastic. My mom is a dance teacher in Wisconsin so she brings her dance students to the shows in La Crosse every year!