‘Sesame Street,’ other PBS programs great prep for school

Published 12:04 am Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Growing up, we didn’t have cable or satellite until I was a teenager. That meant we depended solely upon NBC, CBS and APT – mainly Alabama Public Television – for television entertainment.

My sister next to me is two-and-a-half years younger than I am. We spent our summers and afternoons alternating between cheering and riding bicycles outside and watching shows such as “Sesame Street,” “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” “Reading Rainbow,” “Square One Television,” “Zoobilee Zoo,” “Shining Time Station,” “3-2-1 Contact,” “Ghostwriter,” “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego,” “Wishbone,” and a few others.

It was “Sesame Street,” that made me love to learn. It taught me the alphabet in a time when parents weren’t so concerned about making sure that their toddler learned the alphabet. It kind of served as our preschool. It also gave us a love for music – not that we needed any help coming from a musical family, but it reinforced that. It also taught us that friends come in all shapes, sizes, colors, etc., and growing up in Alabama that was an important lesson to learn from an early age.

Mister Rogers instilled important life lessons such as being good neighbors and being you no matter what.

“Reading Rainbow” and “Wishbone” were some of my favorites because both helped instill in me a love for reading.

“Reading Rainbow” helped me know what books were available and talked about an assortment of different topics. “Wishbone” gave me a love for classical novels from “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” to “The Odyssey” to African American folktales like “Anansi the Spider” and who could forget “Cyrano de Bergerac?” There I got my first taste of Sherlock Holmes with “The Hound of Baskervilles” and learned about “Rip Van Winkle,” and Joan of Arc and “Silas Marner” and so many more great classics. “Wishbone” made classic novels seem – not so old, but exciting.

“Square One Television” was my first real introduction to math outside of counting. “Mathman,” “Dirk Niblick of the Math Brigade” and “Mathnet” will be forever engrained in my memories.

“Zoobilee Zoo” gave us a better understanding of the arts and difficulties faced by children. The main characters included an inventor, an artist, a writer, a traveler, a showman and a musician and dancer.

It was “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego” that gave me an interest in learning geography.

We got our science fix from “3-2-1 Contact,” and used our imagination with “Shining Time Station” and “Ghostwriter.”

Without public television, I can’t imagine how underprepared I would have been for kindergarten, or when I would have been exposed to the classic novels. And we came from a home where our family helped cultivate our love for learning.

That’s why it’s incredibly heartbreaking that the president’s proposed budget cuts out funding for NPR and public broadcasting.

Yes, these organizations get charitable contributions from foundations and private donors; it would still hit them heavily.

I realize that there are issues that need to be addressed and that cuts need to be made, and while pre-kindergarten education is available more than it ever has been, the National Center for Education Statistics says that only 54 percent of 3-to-4-year-olds attend preschool. Public broadcasting costs an estimated $1.35 per year per taxpayer to provide the services.

In a world where we rank No. 7 in education, instead of No. 1, according to U.S. News and World Report, we should be ensuring that our children have every option to learn that we can give them.

In a country that has the highest gross domestic product in the world and second largest if you factor in purchasing power parity, we should be able to give our children access to educational programming.

It’s time that our leaders stop thinking that education outside the classroom is a luxury.


Kendra Majors is a reporter and editor for The Star-News.