Tell Me Mister Rogers About
Fred Rogers ~ pictures by Sheldon Secunda ~ Platt & Munk, 1975
My son has finally moved on from his nonstop listening to the audio book of Charlotte's Web (21 times this summer, I kid you not) and is now in the midst of his fifth listening of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with us reading Charlie and the Glass Elevator to him in the evenings. We've been sticking with the picture books by day/ long reads by night theory and it seems to be working really well... except, make no mistake... as with almost all of his long readings, if he picks up My Father's Dragon and I start it, I better be ready to finish it. Bedtime be damned.
Without a doubt, Dahl is the favorite author in house at the moment. Whenever I hear the chapter coming where Charlie finds the dollar and buys the fated chocolate bar, I always go into the boy's room, curl up in his bed and cry. Seriously, that part gets me every time. Particularly when the shopkeeper leans in and tells him to run home as fast as he can. Such a fabulous moment!
Anyway, I didn't come here (believe it or not) to talk about Willy Wonka. I came here to talk about a figure who is fast fading in my boy's life. I'm still holding on to the half hour every other day video rule.... with a full length feature sprinkled here and there. Though I do think the boob tube on the whole is bad for kids, there is a world of learning there (he's in love with The Life of Birds) and I don't want him to grow up completely under the pop culture rock (he watched the 1960 picture Swiss Family Robinson for the first time last night. The part where the boy rides the ostrich almost blew his mind.) I've never allowed my son to watch TV, as I want to keep him ignorant of the fact that certain things come on at certain times. (And the commercials, ugh!) So, all the boy knows of Mr. Rogers are a few VHS tapes I bought at a library sale. For this reason, I doubt his love of the man runs as deep as it does in the heart of this thirty-something mom. Still, what child doesn't love a book that's about children? Particularly when it speaks to soothe their fears.
If you don't get distracted by the awesome retro photographs with their bellbottoms, Fisher Price Little People and rad fabric patterns (not to mention this bookshelf photo... oh, man how I'd love to go all time-travelin' McFly on that bad boy), you'll find a title that is sweet (as all things Rogers are) and hugely helpful. Covering five key issues (Learning to Read, Sleeping Away from Home, Going to the Dentist, Thunder and Lightning, When Pets Die and Nobody Feels Perfect), the lessons span from the importance of reading time...
Hearing the voice of a grown-up reading often gives you a special feeling -- a feeling that the grown-up loves you and wants you to know what's in the book.
... to putting that most-beloved pet into the ground...
When a pet dies, it may look as if it were just asleep and it may be hard to let someone bury its body. But when living creatures die they can't use their bodies anymore and their bodies need to be buried.
... all done with the gentle hand Fred was famous for. These little fears are fragile in children, so who better to trust than a old master in touching these points. Really, Mister Rogers was more than a television character. He was a teacher, a saint, and I'd even go so far as to call him a friend. Even though I probably spent far too much time watching Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood as a child, there's a part of me that's sad my son won't know him as I did. Then again, he'll have to just find his own small screen hero to love. I suppose that is what Mr. Attenborough is for.