Sesame Workshop is working to make every street more welcoming with the launch of new resources to support families as they talk about race and racism. The “ABCs of Racial Literacy” content package is part of Sesame’s Coming Together program, which is designed to provide tools, spark conversations and support kids as they grow into allies and advocates.
“ABCs of Racial Literacy” focuses on helping families celebrate their own unique identities, and provides kids with age-appropriate strategies to address questions around race and racism. In one video, two new Muppets help Elmo understand why their skin is brown by explaining the concept of melanin, while another short sees Rosita’s mom helping her cope with a racist incident at the grocery store. A new song, meanwhile, will see the Sesame Street Muppets celebrate what makes them each different.
This content push comes amidst a significant increase in violent attacks against Asian Americans. Last week, eight people—including six Asian women—were killed in Atlanta. A recent report from non-profit Stop AAPI Hate documented 3,795 racially motivated attacks against Asian Americans between March 2020 and February 2021. The organization, which tracks incidents of hate and discrimination against Asian Americans, noted these crimes represent only a fraction of the hate incidents that actually occurred, as many more went unreported.
“In order to go about dismantling racism, the only way we can do that is by being bold and explicit,” says Kay Wilson Stallings, EVP of creative and production for Sesame Workshop. “We know kids aren’t color-blind, and this content is meant to give parents the tools and the language they need to address these complex and really important concepts.”
One upcoming piece of content—featuring an original song—will specifically address anti-Asian racism. A series of documentaries featuring families from different parts of the country is also in the works, along with a number of new shorts for kids that will be available on YouTube. And new resources for parents should start launching on social media in the coming months.
In addition to these ongoing content rollouts, the Coming Together initiative will see Sesame expand its racial justice educational plan. Currently targeting kids ages three to five, the framework will extend to six- to eight-year-olds first, and then again to include parents of toddlers and infants.
All of the “ABCs of Racial Literacy” resources are available for free in both English and Spanish. The Sesame Street in Communities program will also distribute these tools and other content through national and community groups including educators, social workers and healthcare providers.
“This educational framework will guide everything,” says Wilson Stallings. “We will always be mindful of the most pressing needs of kids and their families, and develop content that supports that. But racial justice is in our DNA, and everything we do will include that component. It’s not just a special or a series of shorts; it has to be organically woven into the content.”
This strategy will apply to all Sesame Workshop shows moving forward, including Sesame Street, Ghostwriter and Bea’s Block. The company’s other recent efforts to address racial justice include The Power of We: A Sesame Street Special and CNN town hall Coming Together: Standing Up to Racism. Earlier this month, Sesame Workshop also promoted Wanda Witherspoon into a brand-new role as chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer. Reporting to CEO Steve Youngwood, she will head up efforts to make the company’s business practices—including vendor selection, hiring and staff development—more inclusive and equitable.