In South Africa, it's Takalani Sesame. Mexicans know it as Plaza Sesamo, and Palestinians tune in to Shara's Simsim. But, in America, this beloved children's program is simply Sesame Street.

Since Sesame Street premiered on November 10, 1969, generations of children have found their way to this magical place where furry monsters and one Big Bird live alongside friendly neighbors. This PBS program delights children with rhyming songs, games and playful puppets, but at its core, Sesame Street is quite serious.

In the '60s, television producers, teachers and researchers came together to develop an educational show for young children, specifically those living in low-income communities, and better prepare them for school. A curriculum was developed, and famed puppeteer Jim Henson came on board to create the show's nonhuman cast members, including Big Bird, Cookie Monster and Oscar the Grouch.

To appeal to its target demographic, Sesame Street was designed to look like an inner-city street and populated with white, black, Hispanic and Asian neighbors. The community was so integrated, in fact, a Mississippi state commission voted to ban the program in 1969. But, by the start of Season 2, the ban was lifted.

Decades later, Sesame Street continues to push the envelope and promote diversity, positivity and, most importantly, education. In celebration of its 40th anniversary, new and classic segments and backstage exclusives are now available as a two-disc DVD set, Sesame Street: 40 Years of Sunny Days.

If there's one person who can appreciate the show's historic beginnings and bright future, it's executive producer Carol-Lynn Parente.


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