At Sesame Workshop, promoting kindness is fundamental to who we are. Our mission is to provide kids with the tools to engage with an increasingly challenging world in healthy and positive ways. As we enter the second year of Sesame Street’s kindness curriculum, we’re focusing on fostering mutual respect and understanding, especially across cultural, racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. Along with academic skills like literacy, mathematics, and science basics, prosocial behaviors like perseverance, empathy, and compassion are integral to kids’ success in school and beyond.
According to the national kindness survey Sesame Workshop commissioned last year, three quarters of parents, teachers, and caregivers believe that kindness is even more important to children’s futures than academic achievement. The harmful effects of intolerance can be felt in neighborhoods all over the United States and beyond, even by their littlest residents. Preschoolers are not color-blind – they use visual cues to categorize everything in their world, people included – and the reluctance of parents and teachers to discuss race and culture sends the message that it’s an unspeakable topic, which can lead to negative feelings and associations (Bronson, 2009). Sesame Street has always been proud to help kids navigate this space, with a diverse human cast and lovable monsters in every shape, size, and color of the rainbow living side-by-side.
For young children, becoming culturally competent means learning to value others, recognizing similarities between themselves and their peers while also appreciating the differences. At this age, most kids are also developing the cognitive flexibility to see situations from others’ points of view – a key component of empathy – which this curriculum supports and reinforces. Cultural competency also means learning to value the self; our characters model positive self-esteem as they take pride in their unique talents, characteristics, and cultural backgrounds. Difference is something to celebrate from this season’s very first episode, when friends and neighbors come together to share their traditions at a Thanksgiving feast, Sesame Street-style.
It’s also important for kids to see that disagreements are natural, even among friends. This year’s curriculum provides kids with age-appropriate strategies for self-regulation, mindfulness, and conflict resolution to help them overcome a variety of challenges. By modeling the value of respecting others and recognizing their points of view, we hope to guide both kids and caregivers toward building a more caring, compassionate, and kind world.