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Sonia  Manzano

Sonia Manzano

"Maria" on Sesame Street & Best-Selling Author


When you think of Sonia Manzano, you immediately think of children and television. Her most recent accomplishment was creating and developing, with Fred Rogers Productions, an animated children’s program, Alma’s Way, which premiered October 2021. It has won an Imagen Award for Best Youth Programming, and a 2022 Emmy nomination for Outstanding Writing for a Preschool Animated Program. Read More >

But what Ms. Manzano is best known for is performing the role of “Maria” on Sesame Street for 44 seasons, where her work affected the lives of millions of parents and children and garnered her two Emmy Award nominations in addition to the National academy of Arts and Science’s Lifetime Achievement Daytime Emmy in 2016. As a writer for the show, she took home 15 Emmys and recently received the 2022 Beacon Award from PBS.

A first-generation mainland Puerto Rican, Sonia was raised in the South Bronx. In the early 1970’s a scholarship took her to Carnegie Mellon University where she participated in the creation of the Broadway show hit Godspell.

She is also book author whose work includes No Dogs Allowed, A Box Full of Kittens, and Miracle on 133rd St for Simon and Schuster, The Lowdown on the Highbridge for BX Children’s Museum, Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx and The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano for Scholastic. Her most recent Scholastic novel, Coming Up Cuban, set in 1959, follows the lives of four children who represent different intersections of race and class during the Cuban Revolution. Read Less ^

Speaker Videos

You Need To Be Flexible: Sonia Manzano's Path to Sesame Street

The Civil Rights Movement in El Barrio

Kids Have Answers Too

Diversity in TV

The Responsibility of Children's TV


WJCT Cathedral Arts Project

Speech Topics

Multi-Racial Latinos & the Civil Rights Movement

In this presentation based on her book, The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano, speaker Sonia Manzano explores the impact that the Civil Rights Movement had on the Hispanic community. She examines how growing feelings of self worth in both the African American and Latino communities gave rise to social programs like Head Start and the United Farm Workers, as well as educational TV programs like Sesame Street. Manzano gives her personal take on how the whole movement made Latinos examine racial prejudices in their own groups and sadly, in their own families.

From the South Bronx to Sesame Street: A Story of Inclusion & Belonging

In this presentation based on her new book, Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx, Manzano shares the personal tale of the struggles she faced coming from a poor Puerto Rican family to eventually becoming one of the most influential Latinas in television. This poignant and inspirational story is told with Manzano’s signature humor and wit, making this a memorable presentation for parents and children alike.

Writing For Children

A television writer as well as a children’s and young adult’s book writer, Manzano faced many challenges writing across all mediums. From writing for Sesame Street and Pulitzer Prize winning show Little Bill to writing the books No Dogs Allowed, a Box Full of Kittens, and the inspirational The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano, Manzano shares her experience and insight on how to inspire and excite children through the written word.

Children & Television

Manzano’s over forty years on Sesame Street has afforded her a unique look at how the landscape of children’s television has changed. She will share thoughts from the way children are taught cognitive skills, to the way Latinos are depicted, to how 9/11 has affected children’s educational curriculum on Sesame Street. This informative presentation gives audiences a rare opportunity to learn from one of the most knowledgeable people in children’s television.