PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- With back to school underway, former Sesame Street writer and seven-time Emmy winner Ian Ellis James says gun violence education is vital to incorporate in student classrooms.
Spending a decade with Sesame Street and many years as a play writer, James says he's recently been working to incorporate his talents, to tackle the issues faced around youth gun violence.
"I started play writing, and I got into children's TV. I still love the theater, so a couple of years ago I decided I was going to write five plays about gun violence," said James. "And then try and have the clergies and politicians come and talk after the play."
But James says the plays were reaching more of an older audience, where he's focus was to involve more youth members.
"All of a sudden, gun violence was out of control," said James.
According to The Action News Data Team, Philadelphia has seen 122 victims under the age of 18 shot. That's a 65 percent increase from the year before.
Thinking back on his Sesame Street days, Ian thought of an idea to incorporate younger audiences, to help address this nationwide issue.
"What if, we start a program, we start books, video games for that pre-K age. The Sesame Street age which is like three, four and five, said James. "Go there, and if you can reach them, talk to them about guns, that a gun is not fun, that guns harm people."
James says education systems can start from 1st grade, all the way through middle school, and talk about gun violence awareness and what we need to do to change the culture.
He also aims to incorporate his work initiatives into a pilot program through various school districts.
James also plans to work with local leaders and youth role models, to form a consistent bond through educational programming.
"The guns to me, are not going anywhere," said James. "They're everywhere. They're in Philadelphia, they're in Chicago, they're in New York. So, I don't know if we're going to get rid of the guns, to be honest."
James says his approach now is to empower the youth, giving the kids the power to understand what these weapons are doing to individuals within there communities.
"We need to empower them, and get them to do what we can not do at the moment."
Ian says the early stages of childhood development is critical in decision making, later in a child's life.
"Sadly, teenagers are running around with guns," said James. "So we got to get it in their heads earlier." 'How do we stop that?' The same way in terms of Sesame Street and behavior, going in early and start to get them to understand and influence them at that age."