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December 03, 2014

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Early Childhood Literacy – It Takes A Village

By Sesame Workshop


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.

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July 15, 2014

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Kindergartners’ Skills at School Entry Report and Sesame Street Framework for School Readiness

By Sesame Workshop


Preparing children for school has always been a part of what we do at Sesame Workshop. To continue to do this and understand the needs of today’s children, our research team commissioned an analysis of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study to ascertain the status of preschoolers school readiness and their abilities as they enter kindergarten. The findings are being released today in the Kindergartners’ Skills at School Entry report. The report shows wide differences in school readiness persist with 44% of children entering school with one or more risk factors that impact their success in school. The analysis examined four risk factors that have been associated with children’s development and school achievement: single parent households, mothers with less than a high school education, households with incomes below the federal poverty line and non-English speaking households. High-risk children (those with all four risk factors) were found to be nearly a year behind their peers with no risk factors in their reading and math abilities.

In light of these findings, we are sharing our Sesame Street Educational Framework for School Readiness. The Framework is a guide that outlines the developmental progressions of preschoolers within the 20 core school readiness skills. Up until now, it has been an internal guide used to complement the whole child curriculum that is the basis of all Sesame Street content that helps children grow smarter, stronger and kinder.  We are releasing this document in the hopes that fellow content developers will use it to better understand the developmental needs of preschoolers and create educational content that will help close the school readiness gap.

Find the Kindergartners’ Skills at School Entry report here and check out the Sesame Street Educational Framework for School Readiness.

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June 13, 2013

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An Inside Look at In-School Testing

By Courtney Wong


Courtney Wong is a research specialist for Sesame Workshop’s Department of Education and Research.

Sesame Street content has been exploding on the digital market with new apps and website games for your preschoolers! With the ever-expanding digital landscape of design and technology possibilities, we must keep learning and adapting our work. Handheld touch devices and apps did not even exist when we were kids, so we need all the help we can get!  Read More

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Being Here for Each Other in Oklahoma

By Mindy Brooks


Mindy Brooks is Director of Education and Research for Sesame Workshop.

My first vivid memory of a tornado was the day my sister was born. I was 4 years old, it was nighttime, and I was alone with my grandmother who spent the majority of her adult years in Papua New Guinea. I vividly remember hearing the voice of Gary England (an Oklahoma meteorologist) giving advice about the storm and telling us to quickly take cover. To my preschool brain it was targeted solely for us and our house. I remember the panic my grandma expressed as she was new to tornados. I remember talking about how to take cover, securing the mattress over us in the bathtub, and holding on to her. And, even more vividly, I remember the feeling of fear that my parents weren’t there to protect me. Read More

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Sesame Workshop Announces Partnership with Teaching Strategies

By Sesame Workshop


Today Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street, announced a multi-year partnership with Teaching Strategies, the educational company that publishes The Creative Curriculum and Teaching Strategies GOLD. The partnership will develop a series of educational offerings for the preschool classroom that utilizes Sesame Street’s proven content. Over the next five years, Sesame Workshop and Teaching Strategies will work together to develop new ways to educate young children both at home and in school.  Read More

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April 18, 2013

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Research on the Research: Meta-analyzing Sesame Workshop and Finding Good Things

By Marie-Louise Mares


Chamki from India's Galli Galli Sim Sim entertains and educates children on the streets of Delhi.

Marie-Louise Mares is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Sesame Street has always been unique in terms of how much research goes into designing each episode and evaluating how effective the program is. That research happens not only in the US, but also for the various versions of Sesame Street around the globe. Extraordinary amounts of work go on, conducting research studies in countries as diverse as Bangladesh, China, India, Tanzania, Mexico… Read More

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April 10, 2013

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The ABCs and 123s of Preschool Apps

By Michelle Newman


Michelle Newman is a Senior Curriculum Specialist at Sesame Workshop.

Touch screen devices have dramatically changed the way young children interact with technology. Preschoolers no longer have to struggle with a mouse or a laptop touch pad – they can now use their fingers to tap, drag, and trace items directly on the screen. When we started to develop one of our first robust iPad apps in 2010, we were extremely optimistic about all of the affordances of this new technology. What surprised us was the number of new challenges we needed to overcome to create a quality developmentally appropriate learning experience for young children. Read More

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March 25, 2013

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Sesame Street Helps Children Cope with Divorce

By David Cohen


David Cohen is the director of domestic research for Sesame Workshop.

When my friend tried to explain her divorce to her 8-year-old niece, her niece reflected “It’s going to take me awhile to process this.” Her niece’s reaction might be considered precocious, but it also shows the deep emotions children grapple with when faced with such a life altering effect.

Young children need ongoing and sensitive help from trusted adults who approach this event in age appropriate ways. In fact, young children are at risk of having more adjustment problems than older children, since they are still in the early process of developing the coping skills necessary to deal with all the changes associated with divorce. They also often blame themselves for the divorce or feel that it is their responsibility to bring their parents back together. Read More

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January 30, 2013

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Using Sesame Street to Study Brain Development

By Jessica F. Cantlon


Jessica F. Cantlon is Assistant Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the University of Rochester.

I am never quite sure what my daughter is thinking about as we interact.  I’ll watch my child’s reactions as I read her a book and I wonder whether she is thinking about the words that I am saying, the printed words on the page, the pictures I’m gesturing toward, or something else entirely.  And, when I see her completely mesmerized by something we’re watching on television,  I often wonder what aspects of the program she’s absorbing. One way to get ‘inside’ the minds of young children, especially children too young to articulate their thoughts in words, are studies that measure children’s neural activity while they engage in everyday activities like listening to stories or watching educational television. Such studies can not only help us understand which pieces of information children are processing in everyday situations, but how their brain is filtering, reacting to and registering the content to which they are exposed. Read More

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December 17, 2012

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Talking to Children about Recent Events: Our Resources for Parents and Caregivers

By Dan Lewis


The tragic events from Friday morning left the nation shocked, horrified, and speechless. But while often, adults can’t find the words to express the anguish we’re feeling, the children in our lives still have questions and fears.

“What’s happened?”

“Are we safe?”

“I’m scared.”

As parents and caregivers, we want to help our children through this, and make sense of the words and imagery they are seeing on TV an other media. Over the course of decades, Sesame Street has been asked these very questions, and we’ve put together a packet of materials in hopes of helping families cope with these issues. Those materials, available here (as a pdf), are free for you to download. You may also view our Emergency PSA’s available on YouTube. While we can’t make the concerns go away, we hope these materials help you address the recent tragedy, and other emergency situations, with the children in your lives.

 

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