Press "Enter" to skip to content

Sesame Street as Good for Kids as Head Start

The Washington Post features research that indicates Sesame Street may have done more to improve education than any elected official in South Dakota in the last five decades:

The paper from the University of Maryland’s Melissa Kearney and Wellesley College’s Phillip Levine finds that the show has left children more likely to stay at the appropriate grade level for their age, an effect that is particularly pronounced among boys, African Americans and children who grow up in disadvantaged areas.

After “Sesame Street” was introduced, children living in places where its broadcast could be more readily received saw a 14 percent drop in their likelihood of being behind in school. Levine and Kearney note in their paper that a wide body of previous research has found that Head Start, the pre-kindergarten program for low-income Americans, delivers a similar benefit [Jim Tankersley, “Study: Kids Can Learn as Much from ‘Sesame Street’ as from Preschool,” Washington Post, 2015.06.07].

Tankersley writes that the key to conveying the original Sesame Street curriculum of “letters, numbers, and cooperation” as well as the newer focus areas of science, attention, and impulse control, is storytelling:

“Sesame Street” researchers aggressively test their shows via focus groups to see what works. Their success, they said, rests on a simple formula that wraps education in entertainment, harnessing the power of human narrative. They said the approach could easily extend to college students — to MOOCs — as well as preschoolers.

“Storytelling is critical,” Clarke said. “If you organize information in storytelling, children are more likely to learn it. And adults are, too” [Tankersley, 2015.06.07].

Big Bird for Secretary of Education… and Roosevelt Franklin for Governor (he must be old enough by now):


  1. mike from iowa 2015-06-08 15:43

    Wingnuts in congress need to watch Sesame Street,including the so called gay characters,to learn how to get along with Dems and the Black guy in the White House. Be interesting to see in the next election if wingnut candidates spell Hillary with 5 letters starting with a B.

  2. Joan Brown 2015-06-08 17:51

    Sesame Street might be educational for kids, to a certain extinct. That being said watching something on TV isn’t going to give kids the socialization experience, plus there would be bound to be some kids that would think everything in school should be taught to music, etc.

  3. Roger Cornelius 2015-06-08 17:53

    Just think, if Mitt Romney was elected president, Big Bird would be dead by now.
    The irony here is that Big Bird has served a useful purpose, not so much for Romney.

  4. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-06-08 18:30

    Joan, I will agree that Sesame Street won’t replace a good teacher in a good classroom, or, before school years, a mom and dad with time and skills to parent well and spend lots of time with their kids. But the research is saying that Sesame Street plays a great supporting role, especially for kids who don’t have the advantages that I took for granted growing up.

    I also watched a lot of Sesame Street.

  5. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-06-08 19:00

    Cory said, “Sesame Street may have done more to improve education than any elected official in South Dakota in the last five decades:”

    What an accurate statement about a pathetically ineffective state government. And to think, several other states, including MN, are fighting over How Much More to spend on early education. Entering SD is like going down the rabbit hole into an absurd world.

  6. mike from iowa 2015-06-08 19:09

    Kids could interact with Sesame Street as they watched it. Doesn’t replace socialization,but it beats listening to rw radio in spades. My eldest son had a blast singing and dancing to Sesame Street.

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-06-08 19:23

    And Mike, don’t forget your son got to do that singing and dancing without commercial interruption.

    Thanks, Deb, for appreciating the comparison to state government?

  8. John 2015-06-08 19:43

    While the local law enforcement agents, their agencies, and the serial worrywarts are going spastic over the impending arrival of the Rainbow Family of Living Light, I’m unable to get out of my head, Kermit singing, The Rainbow Connection. Jim Henson was THE American educator of the 20th Century.

  9. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-06-08 20:13

    John, is the Rainbow Family coming to SD? To the Hills? I haven’t heard anything about them for a long time. What are the law types afraid of?

  10. John 2015-06-08 21:18

    Highly likely the RF will have their gathering in the Black Hills. The drones, they will be aflyin’.

    What are the law types afraid of? They poop in the woods; similar to the tens to hundred thousand cattle in the hills; or the hundreds of leaky or non-existent septic systems. (As a commenter wrote in the above link, the RF have a good record of rehabilitating their camps.) They, gasp! hitchhike, panhandle, coerce your teenagers, kidnap your kids, and other parades of horribles only one can image visited upon innocents by thrones of Jesus-like peace-seeking liberals . . . . of course if one were to pack a million bikers and wannabes in Sturgis or a few hundred cowboys into Deadwood it would result in peace, no environmental impacts, tranquility, and empty jails . . . . FDR was right in that many folks are satisfied seeking the counsel of their fears.

    But back to EDUCATOR OF THE CENTURY, Jim Henson, Sesame Street, and the Muppets – they helped me raise 3 wonderful adults, and by extension a growing court of grandkids.

  11. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-06-08 21:38

    Excellent comment John, about the dangers of those nasty hippy types as compared to the neat and tidy Sturgis Rally gentlemen. Thanks for the info.

  12. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-06-08 21:49

    Jim Henson would have put together a great skit showing the hippies and the bikers learning to cooperate… perhaps in picking up litter around the Black Hills.

  13. Lynn 2015-06-08 22:06

    The Rainbow Family of Living Light would be great for the Black Hills and especially Rapid. I could see a rainbow/Partridge Family camper school bus parked in front of Bob Ellis’s house, Phil Jensen, Gordon’s. Diversity is cool!

    Peace & Love!

  14. SuperSweet 2015-06-08 22:42

    Kids can learn their colors, numbers, letters and about 50 different variations of “Wheels on the Bus” before they are three years old. Sesame street has a great impact on early learning.

  15. Lynn 2015-06-09 08:07

    Sesame Street started about the same time I started elementary school and have great memories of walking home from school for lunch, eating a peanut butter & jelly sandwich sitting at the card table watching Sesame Street before heading back to school. It was fun learning spelling, pronunciation of words, their meaning and how they were used in sentences. We were exposed to Spanish for the first time too.

    My parents purchased a record for us kids with the theme song and we could hear our favorite characters.

    Sesame Street is awesome and another reason why member supported public broadcasting is so important.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.