By Ms. Erika Wonn (Community Relations)April 23, 2009
Sesame Street honored the military child once again through its outreach organization Sesame Workshop. This month, the workshop released its second phase in its initiative called Talk, Listen, Connect, a bilingual multimedia campaign used to help families during deployments. This kit is available to military members and their families for free through Sesame Workshop and Military OneSource.
Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization associated with the famous show, advocates important issues to families such as health, wellness, literacy, numeracy, respect, understanding and emotional well being. Sesame Workshop touches families by giving them a platform that both parents and children can understand.
In 2006, Sesame Workshop introduced the first phase of Talk, Listen, Connect focusing on deployments and homecomings. The multi-media kit was produced with and funded by Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., with additional support provided by the New York State Office of Mental Health (NYSOMH) and the Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC). Russell Research, Inc. in consultation with the Military Family Research Institute at Purdue University discovered that the Talk, Listen, Connect kit was rated by 80 percent of families polled as highly appealing, effective, and comprehensible for adults and children. Families conveyed increased comfort levels in helping children cope with current and future deployments by using suggestions and strategies from the materials. Parents reported feeling less depressed and hopeless, and that their children exhibited fewer negative behaviors and an increase in constructive family interactions about deployments.
In Talk, Listen, Connect, ElmoAca,!a,,cs Dad is Aca,!A"going awayAca,!A? to do a very important job. Through the characters, children can better understand their own situation, and how they can express their feelings to parents. This program has been acclaimed by families and media alike. Aca,!A"The initiative was born from a strong and singular hopeAca,!"to recognize the thousands of American children and families who know all too well what itAca,!a,,cs like to see a loved one go off to war,Aca,!A? according to Sesame WorkshopAca,!a,,cs website. Now, three years later, Talk, Listen, Connect aims to provide support and significant resources for military families with children between the ages of two and five who are experiencing the effects of deployment, multiple deployments, and combat-related injuries.
A Sesame Workshop press release explained the study by Purdue University and Russell Research, Inc.. Aca,!A"The evaluation data strongly supports that parents appreciate and want resources on how to support their young children during deployments. I am so pleased that Sesame Workshop undertook this effort to support military parents of young children, and I am especially pleased that careful evaluation was part of the effort from the very beginning,Aca,!A? stated Shelley MacDermid, Ph.D., co-Director of the Military Family Research Institute at Purdue University. Aca,!A"The thoughtfulness with which the developers sought guidance from researchers and other experts as the materials were constructed was instrumental to their success, and todayAca,!a,,cs findings speak for themselves.Aca,!A?
On Monday, Elmo and Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, Vice President of Outreach and Educational Practices at Sesame Workshop, were interviewed by Defense Media Center reporter, Ana Allen. Dr. Betancourt explained that around 800,000 children have a parent that has been deployed, but more than 900,000 children have seen Talk, Listen, Connect. The program not only seeks to help families and children affected by the deployment of a loved one, but also advocates to their communities. Aca,!A"The primetime special that corresponds with Talk, Listen, Connect is for military families, but also for the general public. We wanted to capture the strength and resilience of the military family and ask that those in their communities reach out to them,Aca,!A? said Betancourt. She also emphasized that in every community all across America, families are affected by deployments, and schools and neighbors of military families need to be aware of the issues and vulnerabilities that may arise in children affected.
Betancourt said it is easy to forget that when a parent is in the military, the whole family is in the military. When that parent is deployed, the rest of the family is affected.
Sesame Street has been around for 40 years, won more Emmy awards than any other show, and has been seen by more than 77 million people young and old. It is currently aired in over 140 countries in many different languages and themes which makes it Aca,!A"the longest street in the worldAca,!A?. Through education and advocacy, Sesame Workshop has also affected millions, and there are hopes that this program can continue and develop into more phases in the future further helping military children everywhere.