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Posted: October 31, 2015

'Blues Clues' co-creator disputes notion of children's short attention spans

(Scott Gries/Getty Images)
Scott Gries
(Scott Gries/Getty Images)

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By Cox Media Group National Content Desk

The co-creator of the popular children's show "Blues Clues" doesn't think preschoolers have a short attention span problem.

In an op-ed published by the Wisconsin Rapids Tribune, Todd Kessler says he was met with long looks from TV executives when he pitched a narrative-show arc program for preschoolers.

They said kids needed a quick bites format. Kessler says he "disagreed wholeheartedly" with them and provided scientfic research to back his point.

Using a format with a two-sided mirror, researchers from an independent testing company observed preschoolers watching the short-form masterpiece "Sesame Street" and a "Blues Clues" pilot.

"Preschoolers are great test subjects because they are completely candid," Kessler writes. "If your program is not engaging, they won’t watch it just to be polite. Instead, they’ll turn their attention elsewhere."

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"Sesame Street" held the kids' attention 78 percent of the time, while Kessler's "Blues Clues" held their attention for 93 percent of the time.

Kessler says the notion of children's "short-attention span," which is allegedly a byproduct of TV, has evolved over time and has even spread to children's books.

Kessler recently tried to publish a longer, adventure picture book of about 2,000 words for kids but was met with reluctance by a publisher.

"Why do content providers have such a persistently low expectation of young children?" he asks. It is especially puzzling for him as some of today's adults grew up on popular "Dr. Suess" books that were also the same length as the book he's trying to publish.

In September2015, picture books averaged fewer than 500 words and took children less than five minutes to read, he says.

Not only is that a waste of money, but it's also intellectually unhealthy for children, he argues.

Read the full piece here.

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