Since the 1960‘s the Sesame Street Muppets have been helping children across the globe reach literacy, and also empowering communities to read and see the power of education.
Of the 25 million children under the age 6 in Nigeria, the majority live in poverty which has a devastating impact on education. Poor families often need children to stay home and work, causing low rates of literacy and school enrollment, especially for women and girls -which is why Nigeria’s Sesame Square inspires hope.
In Nigeria the local production Sesame Square is well know for its Television Shows providing critical lessons on ABCs and 123s, girls’ empowerment, and health and hygiene – all crucial in a country where early childhood education is getting popular and diseases such as malaria and HIV/AIDS are all too common.
In 2011, two new key Muppets were added to play a starring role in the Nigerian Sesame Square family; Kami and Zobi. Kami, – a bubbly and curious 5-year-old who is HIV-positive. Through her openness about the disease, Kami addresses this sensitive subject in an age-appropriate way. She’s a role model for families impacted by the disease and a powerful agent for overcoming stigmas and misconceptions concerning HIV/AIDS. And Zobi: a blue monster with an obsession for yams and a taxi he forever tinkers with, yet never seems to get running. Zobi’s adventurous personality draws children in with laughter and, in turn, engages them in learning. Accompanied by celebrity guests, Kami and Zobi introduce episodes with a “Word of the Day” segment.
As part of this program Sesame Square has created Hausa language literacy kits that includes a set of alphabet flashcards, a story tree mat, and a puppet kit, and the innovative Alphabet Storybook, the Speaking Book, that will be distributed through local NGOs and Government Agencies to support the educational messages of the television show. to reach 50,000 children and 900 caregivers
The Speaking Book which is already well established for low literacy health care education, with over 60 titles in 32 languages and distributed worldwide in more than 30 countries, has now adapted the same technology to focus on literacy.
According to Agatha Nwajagu, Sesame Square’s Education Content Specialist; “Our work is crucial in providing a brighter future for our country’s youngest learners. Sesame Square with Speaking Books and with the generous support from USAID, is making it possible to meet a broad range of children’s educational and developmental needs in one of Africa’s largest and most diverse countries”
The Alphabet Speaking Book is a world first and developed jointly with Sesame Square to create 22 pages of text and illustrations of Muppets introducing a page at a time with each letter of the Nigerian Hausa language alphabet accompanied by a sound button for each page, that plays the audio track, so that children can look, listen and learn their ABC’s in their own home language, read to them by lovable Muppets.
Click on this image to see and listen to the Book
“Ever since USAID highlighted the need for Speaking Books to address early childhood low literacy, we have been keen to find the right partner to make the maximum impact on the most vulnerable children. Sesame with their Muppets is the perfect fit”, says Brian Julius, President of Speaking Books.
The Sesame Square Speaking Books which are supplied free of charge, teach children the look and pronunciation of each letter of the alphabet, as well as allowing them to trace over each letter, as their first steps towards literacy.
Another big advantage is that the Speaking Book can be played over and over again, shared amongst the community, and to also encourage parents to support their childrens reading efforts.
Ayobisi Osuntusa, Project Manager of Sesame Square said; “I am so pleased to have been asked to create the text for this project, the first of its kind to introduce Nigerian children to the alphabet. Learning to read is critical and this edutainment tool will provide an unique opportunity to interact with other kids and engage in lessons that will foster a life-long love of learning.”