As many as 700,000 children under the age of five have a parent in the military. Recognizing the need for first-rate media-based resources to support military families, in 2006, Sesame Workshop launched the bilingual (English/Spanish), multimedia outreach initiative Talk, Listen, Connect: Helping Families During Military Deployment (TLC). This critical outreach tool helped military families and their young children cope with the challenges of deployment and build resilience in times of separation and change. The overwhelming response to this program revealed a need for additional resources and in 2008 and 2010, respectively, Sesame Workshop followed up with Talk, Listen, Connect: Deployments, Homecomings, Changes (TLC 2) and Talk, Listen, Connect: When Families Grieve (TLC 3).
Since its initial launch, Talk, Listen, Connect has expanded to include a free Sesame Street/USO family tour; two PBS primetime specials; and Sesame Rooms, bringing toys and furniture to military spaces.
With the launch of the Sesame Street Family Connections (SSFC) website in 2009, Sesame Workshop extended Talk, Listen, Connect into a robust online experience, with the goal of facilitating interaction between deployed or injured soldiers and their loved ones when distance or disability made everyday communication difficult.
The following year, with support from the Defense Centers of Excellence, Sesame Workshop began a major expansion of the Sesame Street Family Connections site that included not only technological updates, but also the enhancement of existing features, and the creation of new tools and resources aimed at school-age children. The result of these efforts is Military Families Near and Far, an online space that provides new ways for preschool and school-aged children to express themselves, communicate within their own family networks, and stay connected with loved ones.
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