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

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.


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.


What are your childhood television memories?

Educational Television for Children, Part 3 of 3

Part 3 of Will Too Much T.V. Hurt My Children?

This is what happens when we get busy and forget about our afternoon T.V. time! —–>

I thought I’d follow-up my series about watching television with a list of the shows that my kid’s love to watch.  There are, of course, more great shows out there, but this is what we’ve been able to watch via Apple TV/Netflix.  Most of these you can access on Netflix, but there’ s a few we purchased on iTunes that you can’t get on Netflix – I put a star next to those.

If you aren’t already aware of either Apple TV, the Roku Box, or similar gadget, I highly recommend it.  The gadget isn’t too expensive, and if you can get Netflix on it, it’s only $8 a month to have access to some great programming.  All the nature shows listed below were found on Netflix. If you have questions, feel free to e-mail me!

What isn’t listed here:  the movies my kids watch, the sitcoms we occasionally watch together, or shows that they’ve only watched once or twice.  What is listed below makes up 95% of what they watch, and they have watched the kid’s programs over and over.  They usually pick a show and watch through all the episodes we have access to.  Right now my eldest is in a Curious George marathon.

To find out how often my boys watch T.V. and how I regulate it, go to my last post.

Shows they watch on their own:

  • Disney’s Mickey Mouse Clubhouse* ~ Very first show for both my boys at the age of 2. The five-year-old still likes it.
  • My Friends Tigger and Pooh* ~ Very prosocial, I believe.
  • Curious George
  • Dinosaur Train
  • Kipper
  • Word World*
  • Disney’s little einstein’s*
  • Super Why! ~ Probably one of the best with helping to learn how to read.
  • Caillou
  • Backyardigans
  • Dora the Explorer
  • Go Diego Go
  • Thomas and Friends
  • Bob the Builder
  • Walking with the Dinosaurs ~ This is probably not for everyone or for very young children.  My oldest son didn’t watch these until he was little older, and it’s only been recently that the 2-year-old started liking them. (No, make that loving them.)  It’s a documentary-like program with computer generated dinosaurs recreating what life might have been for the dinosaurs.  It can be rather gruesome at times too. (We let them watch Walking with the Dinosaurs on their own because we’ve watched with them enough to explain what’s happening.)

A note about nature shows:  Programs depicting how animals live (or how prehistoric animals might have lived) can be violent and sad, but frankly I think super heroes or other adult shows are just as bad, if not worse.

As a typical boy, my five-year-old picked out the animal-eating-other-animal after watching just one or two nature shows, and that is what most of his make-believe is about.  Neither of us introduced it or encouraged it (except for letting him watch nature shows).  It just happened.  I think no matter what he watched or what we hide from him, he’s going to find some way to let this natural, boy aggressive behavior out.

Frankly, I would rather he pretend about animals rather than pretend-play with guns.  My boys don’t watch super-hero cartoons or anything else like that.  For the record, I think stories with super heroes can have some very good, moral lessons in them, but I’m glad we happened to navigate to the world of animals in our house.  Though life in the wild can be cruel, my son understands that animals have to do these things to survive.  He’s learning about the natural world through a scientist’s eyes, and he’s developing a keen appreciation for nature while learning that life is not easy either.

Here are some wonderful documentaries we’ve been able to watch on Netflix.  I think I’ll add to this list as we watch more because it makes for good record-keeping for my son’s portfolio.  (Opps. I haven’t kept this promise – see below.) They are in no particular order, but I put my favorites on top.  Actually, I loved them all!

  • National Geographic: Climbing Redwood Giants
  • National Geographic: Gabon: The Last Eden
  • National Geographic: American Serengeti
  • Nature: Wolverine
  • All of David Attenborough’s wildlife specials (BBC)
  • Turtle: The Incredible Journey
  • The Last Continent
  • Colossal Squid
  • National Geographic: Antarctica Wildlife Adventure
  • National Geographic: Incredible Human Machine
  • Discover Planet Ocean
  • Discover: Prehistoric Planet
  • Journey Into Amazing Caves: IMAX
  • Animal Planet: Safari
  • Beavers: IMAX
  • National Geographic: Creepy Creatures ~ good for Halloween
  • Lizard Kings: On the Trail of the Monitor Lizards: NOVA (PBS)
  • National Geographic: Secret Yosemite
  • National Geographic: Bear Island
  • Wolves in Pardise
  • National Geographic: Thunderbeast
  • At Close Range with National Geographic
  • Antarctic Mission
  • National Geographic: Eden at the End of the World
  • National Geographic: Big Sur: Wild California

Please tell me about any shows I should watch that isn’t listed here!

UPDATE March 2013:  I’m sorry I haven’t kept my promise to update this list, but recently 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.