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I confess: My toddler watches TV—sometimes. We're selective with the programs she can watch, and tend to like something with an educational bent. I know more than a few parents who don't allow "Dora the Explorer" in their homes, though. Unsure, I decided to take a second look. With my daughter sitting next to me, I watched a mini marathon of Dora, Boots, and all their friends.
Dora became a regular series over a decade ago and continues to be not only the most prominent children's show featuring a Latina character, but one of the most prominent children's animated shows, period. There was nothing like Dora available when I was growing up. For this reason, seeing her little face pop up on the TV screen makes me smile. My daughter has the option of seeing a pint-sized Latina go on an adventure each day.
Nevertheless, I could see why some parents have a no-Dora policy. In each episode, Dora asks children to repeat things louder. No, louder! My daughter is only starting to say words in recent months, and is quite loud already. Do I want my child yelling at the television every time she watches it? I would prefer she didn't. At the same time, I can appreciate wanting to say something with gusto. Kids get excited watching Dora, and getting loud is part of the experience.
Some characters are woefully one-dimensional. Swiper, the fox, swipes every time and doesn't seem to learn his lesson. Is this character flaw one that will teach my kids the wrong kind of lesson? Likewise, The Grumpy Old Troll is always grumpy. Why is he so grumpy? Can't we make him feel better?
It's also true that Dora's adventures are often woefully predictable. They invariably involve a short quest through three different places: Forests, bridges, mountains, and more. Even so, the show is targeted to children ages 2-5, so they can follow along easily. My daughter also does not seem to mind when shows are repeated. She gets excited each time, even if it's an episode she's seen before.
However, despite some of these issues, I found Dora to be exemplary in a few ways. First, the show calls on children to solve problems—albeit simple ones—such as picking correct paths, sorting items, and assessing shapes and colors. The program is often bilingual and encourages children to use both languages. Dora is kind and helps her friends. She never quits. There are a host of imaginative characters including a monkey, a little bull, a band of tiny troubadours, Tico the squirrel, and Isa the iguana. It is beautifully animated.
The program features Latino culture in myriad ways. It highlights Latina women doing interesting things, including a doctor, artist and a time-traveler. I loved seeing a tiny paletero character, a quinceañera and Dora's interactions with her abuela. After a lot of watching, our household is decidedly pro-Dora. I don't want to hold the rosy-cheeked character to too strict a standard, nor do I think it's fair to want her to be everything I want out of children's programming. I'm just happy that my daughter has a positive reflection of herself and her culture, and that she won't grow up wondering why she never saw people who look like her on TV.
Do your kids watch Dora The Explorer? Did you have reservations about letting them watch it at first?