Mr. Rogers Is My Hero

 

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Note: This column was published in Barrow Journal on April 3, 2013.

We just passed what would have been Fred McFeely Roger’s 85th birthday. If you are like me, you remember him as “Mr. Rogers,” and you couldn’t wait to visit him everyday in his friendly television neighborhood.  Recently I discovered that I could share my childhood favorite with my sons because many of the full episodes are available for viewing at http://pbskids.org/rogers/index.html.

My six-year-old loves it, and watching the show with him, I can see why I loved it too.  Mr. Rogers doesn’t speak down to children. He treats them with the respect they deserve, and every episode deals with real situations that children encounter in their young lives like having to share, fighting with friends or having to buy a new pair of shoes.

Mr. Rogers is my hero for many reasons, but what I most admire about him is how he saw the potential to use television for good, and he didn’t just give that lip service – he actually got into television to try to change it. He says he went into television because he hated it.

As a mother living in a time when many parents restrict media for their children and scoff at other parents for using it, I find his stance refreshing.  He saw television as I see it: a valuable tool.  In a video clip I watched of him online he said,

The space between the television screen and the person…whoever happens to be receiving it…I consider that very holy ground. A lot happens there.”

He was a patient, kind person who never acted phony because he thought children were smarter than that.  He stood up for what he believed in. When he accepted his Emmy award, he made everyone in the audience take ten seconds of silence to remember the people in their lives who had helped them get where they were that day.

He was a Presbyterian minister, a vegetarian, a puppeteer and a songwriter.  He worked and voiced most of the puppets on his show, and he wrote all the songs for it. He taught children that music was a good, healthy way to express their feelings. Much of his work had to do with teaching children that all their thoughts and feelings were okay.

His messages made long-lasting impressions. When I wrote on my Twitter feed recently that “Mr. Rogers is my hero,” I got two, quick replies. The first one: “Are you going to write about him? He was my first friend.”  Another said, “He was my surrogate parent because my biological parents were so crappy.”

This is exactly why Mr. Rogers advocated for government funding for children’s programming. Kids need this kind of programming. We all do. We don’t always get the role models we need at home.

In another interview Rogers said,

There are those people who sometimes say that T.V. doesn’t affect us all that much. Well, all I can say is then why would advertisers pay so much money to put their messages on a medium that doesn’t affect us all that much? I do feel that what we see and hear on the screen is part of what we become.”

I don’t restrict my children from watching T.V. or playing on the computer, but I do monitor what they are watching, and by taking advantage of Netflix, I have eliminated advertising from their viewing. I would never use these mediums to replace real-life relationships, unstructured playtime, or other modes of learning, but good television can provide excellent social and educational lessons that compliment their other experiences.

There’s a lot of bad television, computer games, websites etc., but thanks to people like Fred Rogers, there’s also a lot of awesome television, computer games and websites that we can all use and benefit from.

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Links You May Be Interested In:

My Previous Posts on T.V. Viewing and Children:

In addition, I have begun a Pinterest board of our favorite Netflix shows which I’m adding to (with commentary) as we watch them. Check it out here.

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What are your childhood television memories?

8 thoughts on “Mr. Rogers Is My Hero

  1. I believe ALL the seasons are available through Amazon Prime as well. My girls didn’t like Mr. Rogers the first time they watched him, but they have recently fallen in love with his show. Have you seen the one where he visits Koko the signing gorilla? It’s amazing. Koko watched his show and they invited him to visit. So he did, and when he walked into the room with her, she pulled him into her lap and held him like a baby! It’s one of my girls’ favorite episodes.

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Kim. It’s good to know Mr. Rogers is available through Amazon Prime, although we don’t have that. Hoping Netflix will get them eventually! My three-year-old is not interested in the show at all, so I can see were a child probably needs to be a little older.

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  2. We watch episodes on Amazon Prime often, and we love them. Watching them makes me feel all warm and loved inside too because I used to watch him every day as a child.

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    1. Thank you for your comment, RavenThreads. I know what you are talking about re: feeling warm and loved while watching Mr. Rogers! He definitely does that to you. 😉

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  3. Like Mr. Rogers, I too believe in the power of media as an interpretational tool. I’ve used it as such for homeschooling our three kids and now in making short documentaries.

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    1. Thank you for your comment, Kristin. I’m sorry I’m behind on responding. I was very sick last week. The short documentaries sound like so much fun. Do your kids do them? Do you post them online anywhere?

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  4. I remember mocking Mr. Rogers as a snarky teenager, and my mother saying, with exasperation, “You used to LOVE him. You’d sit with your milk and cookies and watch, and it was like you were at his house for tea.” I’m glad his shows are available. I cried when he died. I think you will get lots of comments on this lovely post about a wonderful person. Kudos, Shelli!

    Melissa

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    1. Thank you, Melissa! I’m sure I probably would not have considered Mr. Rogers my hero when I was a teenager either! Or even my 20s for that matter. lol

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