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In Russia, Children Get To Sesame St. In a New Way

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Later this month, Russian children will begin to wake up to the same chipper tunes that have rung in the ears of a generation of American children: the snappy strains of "Ulitsa Sezam," known in the US as "Sesame Street."

Of course, the setting has changed. The sociable courtyard surrounded by the apartment houses will feel familiar to urban Russian children. Big Bird is replaced with Zeli Buba, a big, floppy, dog-like character who lives in an oak tree.

But the real differences are in the children who will be watching the TV show.

In Russia, as in the United States and more than 30 other countries that have adapted "Sesame Street" to their cultures, the show is aimed at preparing children, ages 2 to 6, for school. And "Sesame Street" researchers have found the same differences, even at this young age, that follow Russian and American students throughout their school careers.

In general, American youngsters are more self-assured and independent, more expressive of their feelings, and have more experience with children of different ethnicities and physical abilities. Russian children, on the other hand, know more, read better, and are more advanced in arithmetic. They are also more respectful and obedient toward adults.

"In general, children are the same all over," says Anna Guenina, director of research and content for "Ulitsa Sezam," who directed the market testing and will study the show's impact on children here through the coming season. "The differences were created by adults, by us."

By the age of 6, the average Russian child is better prepared for school in the academic sense than the average American child. "I think in terms of math and literacy, our children are more educated," Ms. Guenina says.


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