Forty five years ago today, the first episode of Sesame Street aired on PBS. As we celebrate the many ways that our friends Grover, Big Bird, and the rest of the gang have changed the landscape of children’s media for so many generations, all of us at the Joan Ganz Cooney Center would like to salute our founder, the woman whose dedication and determination has made such a tremendous impact on the lives of children all over the world.
From the beginning, Joan Ganz Cooney believed in the importance of rigorous research not just to inform the content of the show, but to measure the impact that it has on real kids who watch it. A true visionary, she understood that television could be used as an effective way to engage children in learning at the same time that they were being entertained. (Read her landmark study on the potential uses of television for preschool education.) More than four decades later, we are incredibly proud to work with amazing colleagues who truly believe in the potential of children’s media to make a real difference in the way young children learn—not just the fundamentals that will give them a head start in school, but about the importance of being smarter, stronger, and kinder.
All of us at the Joan Ganz Cooney Center are honored to continue our founder’s work by evaluating how the technologies of today and tomorrow can be harnessed to help children reach their best potential. We are working to engage developers, researchers, policymakers and educators to understand how digital media can help improve literacy skills, particularly among underserved populations; examining the possibilities for leveraging children’s interest in video games for education; and studying the way families are using media together. We know that the power of digital media can be harnessed to influence children’s media in the years to come. And we thank Joan Ganz Cooney and Sesame Street for helping to pave the way!
If you are in New York and haven’t had a chance yet, stop by the exhibit at the New York Public Library to learn more about the history of the show.