In 1966, Joan Ganz Cooney presented her vision for the show in a report to the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Built on a foundation of research and interviews with cognitive psychologists, educators, and media professionals, “The Potential Uses of Television in Preschool Education” proposed to harness the power of television, still a relatively new medium, to key principles of children’s cognitive development and foundational learning.
Cooney’s ambitions went well beyond creating an innovative TV program. She wanted to help remedy the shortfalls of America’s early education system by drafting parents and caregivers to watch the show with their children and to reinforce its lessons with branded workbooks, craft kits, and other products. In 1968, she and Lloyd Morrisett co-founded Children’s Television Workshop (renamed Sesame Workshop in 2000) to close achievement gaps with the help of an
army of paid staff, social workers, and volunteers who would work within lower-income communities to incorporate the new show into classrooms, libraries, and daycare centers.
Five decades later, the many insights about successful educational media that Cooney outlined in her report and made manifest in thousands of episodes of Sesame Street are still just as relevant. The needs of developing minds remain the same, as do many of the challenges to meeting those needs fully and equitably.
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