On November 10, 1969, the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) launched Sesame Street, an ambitious educational experiment with the goal of using television to prepare children, particularly disadvantaged ones, for school. Decades of research have demonstrated its educational impact, and the show’s plots, parodies, and whimsical characters have inspired countless opportunities to play. Half a century later, Sesame Street is an enduring success.
In recognition of the fiftieth anniversary of this iconic, idealistic, and playful television show, the American Journal of Play welcomes you to its special issue on Sesame Street and learning through play. Working with Rosemarie T. Truglio, senior vice president of curriculum and content, and the team at Sesame Workshop, we have assembled a series of articles that explore playful learning. We begin with a wide-ranging interview with Rosemarie Truglio herself. Sesame Workshop’s Kim Foulds and Abigail Bucuvalas contribute a piece that analyzes the findings of a play-based pilot program in India, Mexico, and South Africa designed to change care givers’ perceptions about play and to empower them to guide children in learning through play. Elena Bodrova and Deborah J. Leong draw on the work of Lev Vygotsky and the Tools of Mind curriculum to demonstrate the importance of children’s make-believe play and how Sesame Workshop television shows aid care givers and teachers with helping children develop mature make-believe play. Rachel M. Flynn, Rebekah A. Richert, and Ellen A. Wartella explore the impact of digital games on the lives and play of children through the lens of Sesame Street’s express mission to help children become smarter, stronger, and kinder. And Erica S. Weisgram closes the issue with an examination of gender differences in children’s play and how Sesame Street promotes gender equity and strives to reduce gender stereotyping. Taken together, these articles explore Sesame Street’s impact on how children play and learn.