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TODAY

Monday, April 22

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Like most people my age, I watched Sesame Street as a preschooler. After a half-day of kindergarten, my mother and I would walk home and she'd let me watch Sesame Street. I'd sit there, mesmerized, taking in Big Bird, Snuffleupagus, Ernie, Bert, the Count and everything they had to offer.

Debuting in November, 1969, Sesame Street has remained a favorite among children and their parents (many of whom watched as children). According to the Sesame Workshop website, each episode of Sesame Street is backed by a curriculum, designed by a group of educational experts. The skits on the show teach children how to develop problem-solving skills, reading fundamentals, basic math skills, colors, shapes, empathy and respect for others, and healthy living issues. While that may be true, what I remember striking a chord with me was the fact that there were children on Sesame Street, who spoke Spanish just as I did and their neighborhood didn't look very different from mine. It made me feel good about myself and my neighborhood. Soon, however, as I did with many things, I moved on and Sesame Street was left behind. Recently, however, I've had to opportunity to watch it again on a regular basis.

The show's format has not changed much; every episode is still brought to you by a specific letter and number and it's cool to see the neighborhood hasn't gone condo. There are the usual human/muppet skits, and between those are number and letter vignettes and much to my delight, cartoons are shown that were around when we were kids. You can still see the number guy that looks like Santino from Project Runway counting numbers and painting with ketchup on white bread; there's the "12345678910!" lady singing and of course, the classic "One of These Things Does Not Belong" which I can't believe I still know all the words to.

A lot of the favorite muppets still reside on Sesame Street. You can find Big Bird in his nest by Sesame Street's garbage dump and Oscar the Grouch in his can, not too far from Big Bird. Sadly, however, Oscar's longtime girlfriend, Grundgetta, "dumped" him. Continuing on the block, you can find Bert and Ernie in their basement apartment. Grover comes and goes from the neighborhood as he now has his own feature called "Global Grover" in which he travels to all over the world, sharing his findings with everyone.

Other old timers include The Count, who still has his lady in his life, The Countess (She's basically The Count sans eyebrows and with a blonde wig.) One crazy thing I did notice was that apparently Cookie Monster now tries to have a balanced diet, claiming cookies are a "special sometime snack." What? That's just crazy talk!

There are some new characters as well: ZoŽ, Rosita the Mexican Fruit Bat, and of course, Elmo (Who technically has been around since the late 70s, but is still considered "new-ish" by many thanks to the recent Elmo craze.) While Elmo is starting to grow on me, there is way too much of the show focused on Elmo. It's Sesame Street, not "The Elmo Show — Featuring a Tall Bird!"

Among the other new characters is Baby Bear, a bear who has a severe speech impediment. I know Sesame Street is all about teaching children we're all special, but damn, that bear is annoying! He can't pronounce the letter R. Really, do I want that bear to teach my kid "rabbit" is pronounced "wabbit"? I don't think so. Kill the bear!

Only a few of the original humans remain. Bob, the music teacher, is still floating around, and Gordon and Susan now have a son named Miles. Maria and Luis, who got married and had a baby (now a teenager named Gabby), changed the "Fix-It Shop" into the "Mail-It Shop." The humans on Sesame Street are looking a bit frayed around the edges, but still as warm and endearing as ever.

Celebrities continue to love appearing on Sesame Street. When I was a kid, we saw people like Dizzy Gillespie, James Earl Jones and Lucille Ball on, while now Margaret Cho, Natalie Portman (who worked at Mr. Hooper's store) and Destiny's Child stop by for a visit. It makes you feel old when most of the celebrities you saw as a child on Sesame Street are now dead, especially when you're older than most of the recent celebs.

One of the things that made Sesame Street a pioneer in children's entertainment was how it embraced diversity and multiculturalism. To this day, Sesame Street continues to do so. The puppets and humans are all different sizes, ages, races, religions, shapes and colors thus, showing children the world is full of many unique beings. Additionally, Spanish is still featured on Sesame Street. Rosita, who emigrated from Mexico's "Plaza Sesamo," introduces the bilingual segments, again showing children that there are other languages out there besides English. It can now be seen in over 120 countries, many of which have their own version, spreading the same message of open mindedness and acceptance to children around the world.

Along with its cousins The Muppet Show and the acid-trippy Fraggle Rock, Sesame Street has provided throngs of children quality "edutainment" which adults also appreciated. Now that my son watches Sesame Street, it has been pretty cool sitting with him and visiting some long forgotten friends. This time around it's my turn to watch him smile, sing, learn, call out for Grover and for me to enjoy the subtle adult inside jokes I missed as a child. While some things on Sesame Street have changed, it's nice to know the important ones remain the same.

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About the Author(s)

Alejandra Valera is a new mom and writer. If there's a baby- or kid-friendly place, product or event you think she should cover, email her at .

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