Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Iraq, Afghanistan, and Sesame Street

A couple weeks ago I received a newsletter from Sesame Workshop in which the lead story was about Talk, Listen, Connect, or TLC, a program launched last year but which is undergoing major revisions through this autumn.

The program originated when it was realized that there are over 700,000 preschool-aged children (age 3-5) in the United States whose parents have been deployed in the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Lengthy and frequent deployments of their parents are psychologically taxing for small children, as, ironically, is the parents’ return, particularly when they suffer from PTSD or other physical injuries or mental trauma. Sesame Workshop has partnered with the United Service Organizations and the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy to create a bundle of videos and print resources designed to help preschoolers and their parents, both at home and in the service, deal with these life changes. The materials feature Elmo and Rosita (seen above) and, as such, are entirely bilingual in English and Spanish. They are available through multiple outlets and, more simply, can be downloaded online. A live tour featuring these Muppets is also underway.

Given the high numbers of effected children and their probable familiarity with Sesame Street and Elmo, the program could not be more timely; it's yet another American example of some of Sesame Workshop’s social consciousness, best seen recently in its foreign versions of the show (for instance, the next item in the newsletter is about an HIV-positive Muppet in the South African Takalani Sesame; we should always remember, however, that Sesame Street was the first racially-integrated show on American television). 

Here is a press release discussing the program, from which most of my information was gleaned. However, since then Sesame Workshop has also posted a larger story right on its homepage. From here you can navigate to a page where you can download the videos. In fact, my only complaint with TLC is that the videos are available as WMV files only, making them unplayable on my Mac (and everyone else’s!). Hence a plea to add a QuickTime option as well. Information on the live tour is available as well, but I also went to some military chat sites where it appears that the live show is well publicized via bases, etc.

Whether you’re for or against the war, you should be pleased with this program. It looks like a great resource for kids who are drastically affected by the war but who weren’t even alive when American troops first crossed the Iraqi border in 2003.

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