Today Sesame Street celebrates 40 years on air. An expert in children and TV viewing applauds their efforts over four decades. UW communication professor Marie-Louise Mares says the program was launched with the intent of getting children ready for kindergarten, especially those from lower income families although soon all children became involved. The educator also says the show helped pioneer use of minority actors.

In recent times the PBS program is facing stiff competition including hundreds of other cable networks and the internet. It’s evolved to become more interactive, encouraging kids to further their learning on the Sesame Street website.

The familiar characters have also served as ambassadors for children in other countries. Marres says, “Big Bird, Grover, Elmo these are positive elements that kids growing up overseas can associate with the US.”

Marres, a native of Austraila, knows firsthand as she grew up watching Sesame Street.

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