As a young person, Val Thomas-Matson loved Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. She recalls a particular episode in which Fred Rogers shared a message to his viewers that "we were all special [and that] we were all really unique" left her weeping as she felt that unconditional love seeping through her television. Beloved children's shows that made her feel seen, like Mr. Rogers and Shari Lewis’ Lamb Chop's Play-Along, stuck with Val as she began her career in broadcast communications, dreaming of starting a similar show of her own one day. It would take nearly 30 years, but Val eventually received a Best Starts for Kids grant that allowed her to bring her vision to life, the award-winning local children's television program rooted in research, racial equity, and radical joy, Look, Listen and Learn (LL+L). LL+L is the region's first and only children’s educational television show intentionally created by a Black producer for BIPOC children and their families!
Something wonderful about Look, Listen and Learn is that Val and her team truly recognize the power the arts have to heal and connect communities, and that art is developmentally important for children. Research and data prove time and again that art provides a foundation for early learning and instills key skills such as:
● fine motor skills (holding a crayon, pencil, buttoning),
● cognitive development skills (critical thinking, cause, and effect),
● math skill (counting and spatial reasoning)
● language skills
● pleasure and unspeakable joy
Additionally, LL+L understands that arts and media are powerful tools for liberation. WE AGREE! It's absolutely beautiful how intentional Val is when choosing locations for art segments, selecting community museums and art galleries, such as the Wing Luke Museum, Northwest African American Museum, and Nepañtla Gallery. Community artists film the art segments as they introduce and remind viewers that these are places where they, too, can gather, visit and explore the world of art, imagination, and build their own artistic journeys. Her goal is always to exist at the intersection of arts, media, education, and racial justice by providing culturally relevant storytelling, fundamental social-emotional skills, and critical messages of love and hope. Val wants her young viewers and families to feel held and seen the way she was so many years ago watching Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood.
Recently, the WNBA's Seattle Storm awarded Val The Ginger Ackerley Community Service Award, which is given to an individual who has made an impact on improving the quality of life in the Puget Sound, and for which Val will accept at the Believe in Women Night on August 29th at the Storm versus Chicago Sky game. This is just the program's latest accolade, coming on the heels of winning three Tellys for the show's first season earlier this year. In case you didn't know, the Telly Awards honor excellence in video and television across all screens from among 12,000 entries from all 50 states and five continents!
Val Thomas-Matson, we SHOUT-OUT from the rooftops our excitement and admiration for the work you are doing in our community. You and LL+L deserve every award and more for the special vision you share with all of us. We can't wait to watch what happens next! CONGRATULATIONS!
*LL+L is committed to expanding experiences beyond the show. All of the activities featured in the episodes are available on LL+L’s Resources website - including art projects - so that families can replicate them at home. Enjoy their 30-second promo (below) and check them out on YouTube!