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Big Bird will help teach kids the ABCs of finance

NEW YORK (Dow Jones/AP) — Elmo is heading to a new street — Wall Street.

He and other characters from the popular children's television show "Sesame Street" are teaming up with Merrill Lynch & Co. to teach preschoolers the ABCs of finance.

The financial literacy campaign — dubbed Investing Pays Off, or IPO — will kick off Sept. 10 in eight major cities, the District of Columbia, and parts of New Jersey.

Sesame Workshop and Merrill will initially distribute 20,000 Elmo posters and 225,000 copies of a special issue of Sesame Street magazine called "Talking Cents" that offers strategies and activities to help adults teach children basic business concepts.

There's also a pullout section for kids where they can help Big Bird decide how to spend the money he earns from a bake sale and go food shopping with Elmo.

The magazine is also interspersed with tips in Spanish.

"All kids can benefit from this" although there is a special emphasis on underserved communities, said Eddy Bayardelle, head of global philanthropy at Merrill Lynch.

The posters and "Talking Cents" will be distributed to 80 child-care agencies and various Head Start programs and at community events.

The magazine will also be available online at sesamestreet.com, along with additional activities related to helping Elmo and his friend, Zoe, run a lemonade stand.

Jeanette Betancourt, assistant vice president for the education and research division of Sesame Workshop, said she hopes there will be more print and online content in the future. "We're hoping that this partnership will continue to grow," she said.

The materials were created by Sesame Street's research team with funding from Merrill.

So far, New York-based Merrill has spent about $500,000 on the venture, but Bayardelle expects that to increase over time as it is expanded across the country and possibly globally.