On November 10, 1969, the TV show which forever would change children’s television debuted on public broadcasting stations around the country, courtesy of the Children’s Television Workshop. I believe it is one of the best things that ever happened to television, and forty-five years later, it still is going strong.
We Baby Boomers were mostly grown by the time Sesame Street came on the scene, but our children benefited enormously from it. Truth be told, when people learn my daughter started reading at two years of age, I have to credit her favorite show, which in those days was pronounced Sessee Street, and the fun she had learning her letters with friends she watched everyday at 9:00 o’clock in the morning.
The day that rocked her little world was her second birthday. One of the gifts she received was a large easel. Her dad was putting it together, and as he worked, she sat on the floor staring at the cardboard box in which it came. I watched as she stared at the box, wondering what she found so fascinating about it. After several minutes, a brilliant light went on, her face lit up, and she started jumping up and down, yelling and pointing at the box: “Omie, Mommy, Omie!!”
For the uninitiated in the language of a two-year old, omie was her word for open. And there it was; in big blue letters printed across the box, the word OPEN. She had recognized the letters, worked it through, and in a flash, her brain translated symbols into a word. And that was just the beginning. From that day forward, she worked on every word she encountered until it was mastered, experiencing the boundless joy of reading before she ever walked through a schoolroom door.
And the gift that kept on giving? She continued watching Sesame Street with her younger brother, and then helped him learn to read. He too had the skill down before entering Kindergarten. Both kids loved that show, seized the information made available through it, and never hesitated to play and have fun in the process.
So, to you Joan Ganz Cooney, the first executive director; Jim Henson, creator of the Muppets; Bob, Maria, Gordon, Susan, Luis, Mr. Hooper, Kermit, Bert, Ernie, Cookie Monster, Oscar the Grouch, Grover, Count von Count, and Big Bird; you all were there at the beginning, and I want to thank you for the years of joy, teaching, tears, and love you brought into our home every day. You made our world a happier, brighter place, and because you cared about us, we learned to read, count, sing, share, be kind to and accepting of others. That is a monumental impact on millions and millions of young lives; all who will never forget any of you.
I believe Phil Donahue said it best, “This is Sesame Street. A place where people, birds, monsters all live in perfect harmony.” I think we all might benefit from an occasional return visit to Sesame Street; it just might remind us how easy it actually is.
Sweepin’ the clouds away
On my way to where the air is sweet
Can you tell me how to get,
How to get to Sesame Street?