Sesame Street has always been out in front of issues that kids want and need to talk about, but that parents might think are above their heads.
I can recall watching the show as a kid and picking up cues about racial tolerance and how bigotry can hurt someone’s feelings. Or giving to others instead of being greedy. What loss feels like after a loved one passes away (YouTube).
Or how it is our differences which make each of us the special person we are…even little furry monsters.
After Katrina, there was an episode where Big Bird lost his nest in a hurricane. The Sesame Street community came together to help him rebuild.
For parents and educators? There was a whole curriculum program put together to help teach children to cope with weathering a fierce storm in their own lives. It was brilliantly done.
So, when I heard that the Children’s Television Workshop had a special in the works on the economy and its impact on families, I had to find a copy to view.
And you should, because it is wonderful.
As they move from table to table and story to story, Roker and Roberts ask how each family is coping and celebrate their ability to put togetherness before material things. Even so, the series of mini-docs will make an adult viewer swallow hard more than once. Jobs have been lost, and homes, families that were planned on the foundation of a solid-seeming career now teeter, mothers wipe away tears and proud parents find themselves having to ask for help — financial, psychological — from family and local agencies.
Although the emphasis is kept firmly on the importance of love and careful planning, "Families Stand Together" makes it clear that there is no magic wand, no fairy-tale ending in sight. These hard times are real and must be endured, sacrifice is required, and comfort comes not from a sudden windfall but from knowing that many have, and are, going through the same sort of thing.
This is the way to convey not only a sense of compassion and caring, but also to foster a sense of community that is sorely needed as so many folks struggle to get by.
dday recently examined the new census data, and it is absolutely devastating:
The U.S. Census Bureau has just announced that the poverty rate for 2008 was 13.2%. This means the number of people in poverty has increased by about 2.5 million, to 39.8 million. To give you some perspective, 2.5 million is more than the number of people who live in Detroit and San Francisco combined.
The only way that any of this gets better is if we all pull together and help each other through it. Poverty is an issue that needs broader discussion, especially as more and more families with children are forced to tighten their belts even further.
Huge kudos to Sesame Street for getting that conversation going.
Prior articles in this child poverty series: making child poverty a priority; mortgaging the nation’s future Part I and Part II; better childhood nutrition Part I and Part II; give kids a head start; bringing poverty to the table Part I and Part II; true compassion, Will children be casualties of the stimulus compromise?, Summertime: The Living Ain’t Easy For Children In Poverty, Start of School Means Two Meals A Day For Hungry Children In America, and Health Care And Poverty: We Are Failing Our Most Vulnerable.