As It Happens

Sesame Street as beneficial as attending preschool, study finds

A new study from the University of Maryland has found that hanging out with Oscar, Big Bird and Grover on TV is just as beneficial as being in a preschool classroom.
(Mark Lennihan/Associated Press)

A new study from the University of Maryland has found that watching Oscar, Big Bird and Grover on TV is just as beneficial as being in a preschool classroom.

"It suggests that Sesame Street accomplished the goals its creators had in terms of getting kids better prepared for school," co-author Melissa Kearney tells As it Happens co-host Carol Off.

Sesame Street first came on the air in 1969. At the time, "A number of kids in the country couldn't receive the broadcast signal on their television," says Kearney, a professor of economics at the University of Maryland. Using these children as a control group, the study compared children who watched Sesame Street to those who did not.

Melissa Kearney is a co-author of a new study that says Sesame Street is just as beneficial as going to pre-school. (Photo courtesy of Melissa Kearney)

"The kids who were preschool age -- in places where they could readily receive the show -- were 14% less likely to fall behind when they got to elementary school," says Kearney.

The study also found that the benefits were largest for African-American boys who were "growing up in more economically-disadvantaged places."

"It's probably the case that those kids had less access to other educational interventions and were less likely to have parents who were reading to them," says the professor. 

The study didn't look at the effect that Sesame Street has on kids today. Kearney, however, suspects that the show is less influential because "kids aren't watching it as singularly or devotedly as they did in the seventies." 

"Kids have a lot more choice on tv," she says, "some of which is educational and some of which is not."

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