With the closure of ECD centers and preschools in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, young children are among the most affected by the interruption in access to learning opportunities, and by the temporary loss of the protective space offered by school environments. Experts warn of likely long-lasting effects on young children’s socioemotional and cognitive development as learning has shifted from school rooms to living rooms.
For families, the reality of confinement and the prospects of its continuation pose great challenges, ranging from the daily logistics of living in a limited space to concerns about their financial stability and the physical and socio-emotional well-being of all its members. In addition to calming our children’s fears, doing our best so that they eat and sleep well, exercise and practice good hygiene, parents are suddenly responsible for teaching everything to their preschoolers from early literacy and numeracy to science. These, to be sure, are unprecedented times when we all need a little help adjusting to the new “normal.”
In order to support children and their caregivers across the region, Sesame Workshop (the non-profit organization behind Sesame) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) have partnered to provide resources to help transform moments of uncertainty into learning opportunities. Through the Sesame-IDB partnership, until June 2021, all countries in Latin America and the Caribbean will be able to have more than 100 hours of the best of Sesame television programming for free, thus ensuring that all preschool girls and boys can continue learning at home through public and private television networks, as well as webpages of ministries of education throughout the region. In parallel, families will be able to write directly to Sesame via WhatsApp to receive directly on their phones complementary resources and tips to extend learning and ensure at least one moment to smile every day.
Through the “Caring for Each Other” initiative, Sesame has developed a universe of resources to support COVID-19 contagion prevention efforts, offer learning experiences at home and strengthen the abilities of adults and children to face this crisis. On the Caring for Each Other website, families will find videos, digital games, activities, storybooks, and many useful materials to cope with this emergency; from how to properly wear a mask to breathing and yoga techniques to manage frustration and anxiety.
Rigorous evaluations, conducted by the IDB and others, indicate that Sesame content with characters like Elmo, the Count and Cookie Monster deliver the academic building blocks required to initiate short- and long-term learning. A 2015 study from Wellesley College found the benefits of watching Sesame Street to children in the US are equivalent to those generated by pre-school programs. Prepared by highly trained early learning educators, episodes have been proven to raise levels of creative thinking and reduce gender stereotyping in Latin America.
The IDB and Sesame Workshop are proud to offer these new resources to all families in the region as we face this crisis. The beloved Sesame characters, such as Elmo, Lola, Abby and Comegalletas, will be there to accompany you through these difficult times.
What have you or your children learned from your favorite Sesame character? How do you think your favorite Sesame friend could help our children cope with the pandemic? Share your comments in the section below, or mention us in twitter @BIDEducacion #EnfoqueEducacion