New Study Shows Educational Benefits of Watching Sesame Street Similar to Those of Attending Preschool

Posted by SDPB on

The most comprehensive study ever conducted on the educational impact of Sesame Street has discovered that the show can provide benefits comparable to preschool attendance.

The research, coauthored by Wellesley College economist Phillip B. Levine and University of Maryland economist Melissa Kearney, found that access to the show improved early educational outcomes for children.

Levine and Kearney's paper shows that the effect is particularly pronounced for boys and non-Hispanic, black children, as well as children living in economically disadvantaged areas.

Previous targeted studies conducted in the early 1970s had already demonstrated that exposing children to Sesame Street increased preschoolers’ test scores.

The first season intro to Sesame Street.

The new study shows that the generation of children who were of preschool age in the early days of Sesame Street, and who watched the show, were also more likely to excel in school once they got there. Furhter, the results of Levine and Kearney’s analysis indicate that the introduction of Sesame Street led to a positive impact on performance continuing throughout elementary school.

According to Levine, “It is remarkable that a single intervention consisting of watching a television show for an hour a day in preschool can have such a substantial effect helping kids advance through school. Our analysis suggests that Sesame Street may be the biggest and most affordable early childhood intervention out there, at a cost of a just few dollars per child per year, with benefits that can last several years.”

Kearney adds, “With so much emphasis on early childhood interventions these days, it is quite encouraging to find that something so readily accessible and inexpensive as Sesame Street has the potential to have such a positive impact on children’s school performance, in particular for children from economically disadvantaged communities. These findings raise the exciting possibility that TV and electronic media more generally can be leveraged to address income and racial gaps in children’s school readiness.”

“Sesame Street was born in the late 1960s during a time when the importance of early childhood experiences began gaining more traction. Since our founding, Sesame Street has revolutionized early learning by using media to make educational opportunities accessible, helping children grow smarter, stronger and kinder. Drs. Kearney & Levine’s research reaffirms the intention Joan Ganz Cooney and the team that created Sesame Street set out to accomplish. We are thrilled to see the positive effects of Sesame Street as a population-based intervention – especially for those less privileged,” said Dr. Jennifer Kotler Clarke, Vice President, Research and Evaluation, Sesame Workshop.

The complete study, Early Childhood Education by MOOC: Lessons from Sesame Street, is available online (with a subscription or for a five dollar fee). A Washington Post overview of the study is available here

subscribe to education email updates food blog link image learning blog link living blog link news and information blog link science and technology blog link sports blog link image

Fun activities and projects for kids, educational resources for parents and teachers, and links to SDPB and PBS learning media!

Visit SDPB's Education Site!

Related content from SDPB Radio

In The Moment ... Jill Watson On Guiding Students With Limited Or Interrupted Education

In The Moment ... October 16, 2017 Show 199 Hour 2 Jill Watson is Professor of English as an additional language and...

In The Moment ... Law School Compromise

In The Moment ... October 10,2017 Show 195 Hour 1 How should the University of South Dakota Law School address...

In The Moment ... Learning Chinese In Aberdeen

In The Moment ... October 5, 2017 Show 192 hour 1 In 2015, South Dakota was the only state in the country that didn...

In The Moment ... The Role Of Teachers In Mental Health Intervention

In The Moment ... September 28, 2017 Show 187 Hour 1 September is national suicide awareness and prevention month...

In The Moment ... SD School Of Mines & Technology Honors Program

In The Moment ... August 21, 2017 Show 160 Hour 2 A new Honors program at the South Dakota School of Mines and...