The warm and welcoming children’s show “Sesame Street” was launched in 1969 with the express purpose of teaching children about the world around them and providing positive support to marginalized communities. As Smithsonian Magazine points out, the series was conceived in the midst of the civil rights movement and was intentionally designed to “boost the self-esteem of black children through the presentation of positive black imagery.” Lloyd Morrisett and Joan Ganz Cooney have put together The Children’s Television Workshop with care, including experts in child development, the arts and other fields on its board of directors to ensure that the series would reach children where they needed the most help.
Perhaps Morrisett’s greatest achievement was understanding the power of television and the ways it could be used in positive ways at a time when the small screen was known as a commercial rather than an artistic medium. With the addition of Jim Henson’s memorable puppet cast and the inclusion of adorable real-life on-screen children, “Sesame Street” quickly became one of the most influential shows of all time. He pioneered the idea of television as a trustworthy teacher for young children, and with the power of public funding from PBS and a knowledgeable, research-informed behind-the-scenes team, the show has managed to take on this responsibility for more than half a century.
By the time “Sesame Street” began airing episodes on HBO in 2015, its reach on PBS was measurable and historic. “PBS stations reach more children ages 2 to 5, more mothers with children under 6, and more low-income children than any other children’s television network,” the network said in a statement. a statement shared by NPR. A study published the same year showed that children often learned as much from “Sesame Street” as from kindergarten.