Sure, on good days, I can practice the pre-1947 trick of assembling my children on the kitchen floor to pound pots and pans while I chop the tomatoes. But what about those weak-willed mornings, when my eyes are crusty and my head aches for sleep, when I'm trying to nurse the baby while keeping [Janelle] from pulling her sister's legs out of their sockets? That's when the Disney Channel is a gift from God -- no matter that it might be meant for children a year older than Janelle.
Next I read the forthcoming study on programs like "Sesame Street" by Deborah L. Linebarger, a professor at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. The surprising conclusion of her study, which will also appear in the December issue of American Behavioral Scientist, is that babies and toddlers who watched "Sesame Street" and "Teletubbies" performed more poorly on vocabulary and expressive language tasks at 30 months of age than counterparts who watched little or none of these programs.
That's a possibility, Linebarger said, though she issued a few words of caution. First, the study included only 51 children from mostly middle- to upper-class families. Second, the data were collected from the fall of 1999 to 2001, before "Sesame Street" decided to keep story lines together instead of jumping in and out of them throughout the program. (Incidentally, Rosemary Truglio, vice president for education and research at Sesame Street, said that the format was changed because the average age of the show's viewers was getting younger. In the early days, as a kindergarten- readiness program, Sesame Street targeted 4 year olds. Today, she said, the target audience is 2 to 4 years old.)
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