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Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Or Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood As a Library Program. Pt.1: Whys & Wherefores


When I parked myself in front of the TV to revisit Mister Rogers Neighborhood, I didn’t expect to get lost in it. I grew up with the Neighborhood. I have very fond memories of watching Mister Rogers on days when I stayed home sick from school long after I had outgrown it (right up through my senior years in high school). And, yes, I cried like a baby on the day Fred Rogers passed away. Even so, I assumed I would watch a few episodes, feel drunk on nostalgia, and be done with it.  But after only a few episodes, I was hooked, and soon found what I learned leaking into my work at the library every single day.

It occurred to me that I wanted, nay, needed to share this children’s media treasure with a new generation. The library seemed like the ideal setting for such a revival. I decided to develop a joint media engagement experience for kids and their caregivers. After all, Fred Rogers always encouraged parents and caregivers to watch the program alongside their children. In fact, Family Communications (now the Fred Rogers Company) wrote a brilliant activity book to support active co-viewing of the show: Mister Rogers Plan & Play.

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MRPP offers parents, caregivers, preschool teachers, and librarians a roadmap for providing a rich, interactive experience for every single episode ever filmed in chronological order. Not only are the activities great, but the discussion guides have helped me to make Neighbor Time so much more than simple movie+craft program. I wanted this program to offer kids a chance to think deeply about the content presented in the show. I wanted to put particular focus on the deep emotional thinking that is the foundation on which Mister Rogers built his Neighborhood.

In storytime, we librarians use all sorts of strategies like dialogic reading and visual thinking strategies to enrich and engage childrens’ experiences with books.  I wanted to take a similar approach to watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. I am deeply interested in how young kids process and think about screen media. Watching MRN with a (more or less) consistent group of children over the course of a full school year was mind-boggling. During our screenings, I observed them closely to learn what drew their attention and sparked their delight. During our discussions, I listened to their vividly detailed descriptions of their favorite moments, and how they related the content to their day-to-day experiences.  Mister Rogers talks about important social-emotional ideas and experiences in every single episode. In so doing,he opens the door for viewers to talk about these big ideas, experiences and feelings with their loved ones. Supporting this sort of discussion was one of my big goals for Neighbor Time. I wanted to make time for reflection and connection between kids and the grownups that love them.

Mister Rogers: Timeless and Authentic

Fred Rogers never set out to create a television show.  In fact, he kinda/sorta hated television…especially children’s television.  He told his friend, author Amy Hollingsworth that “he got into television because he saw people throwing pies into other peoples’ faces and he said ‘that is such demeaning behavior, and if there’s anything that makes me mad, it’s one person demeaning another.'” (Mister Rogers and Me) At the same time, he knew this new-at-the-time technology offered a unique opportunity to communicate with young children in a way that had never before been possible. Through the television, he could zip over the folds of time and space, and befriend children all over the world.

The secret ingredient of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood is woven so delicately into the show that it’s difficult to believe it is even there: authenticity. Fred Rogers was exactly who he said he was. As a kid, I personally felt I could rely on him.  He was there every weekday when I came home from preschool. He took me to real places. He showed me how real things worked. Most importantly, he looked me straight in the eye, and talked to me about big ideas, important feelings, and who I was deep down inside. That meant something to me when I was little. And it means just as much to me today.

And I wasn’t alone. In Dear Mister Rogers, Does It Ever Rain in Your Neighborhood: Letters to Mister Rogers (public library), fan mail from his youngest viewers shows just how brilliantly Fred Rogers (and his crew) managed to pull this off. The first chapter, “Are You Real” is full of heart-wrenchingly adorable letters from children like this one:

Dear Mister Rogers,

Are you for real? Are you under mask or costume like Big Bird? Are you for real? Are you for real or not? My birthday wish is I want to know if you are for real.

Timmy, age 5

The answer to Timmy’s question was an unequivocal yes. Rogers wrote,

“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” I’ve always thought of that opening song of ours as an invitation. It’s an invitation to be close. To share thoughts and feelings. To talk about things that matter to us.

His vision for the show was to make sure every child had a friend who would “help them understand the world, and how to live well in it.”   He follows through on this vision with astounding rigor and dedication. When it comes right down to it, the show isn’t just brilliant, it’s downright futuristic. If you’ve ever tried to maintain a relationship with a child via Skype or Facetime, you know how difficult it is to make the experience feel real. But Mr. Rogers gazed through the screen and into our eyes, and we knew we were loved.

The show was designed to feel real. Every “television visit” felt like a real visit with a real neighbor. Even when it didn’t necessarily look real, it always felt sincere. Mister Rogers referred to the set as his “television house”, and he often made the distinction between this and his “home” in real life. When it comes down to it, every moment has a purpose that fills out a little piece of the Neighborhood so that it became real to young viewers.

Rick Townley talks about how “Fred’s Shoes” became a symbol of Rogers’ relationship with his young viewers in an essay you can find in Mister Rogers Neighborhood: Children, Television and Fred Rogers (public library)

A young viewer watching Mister Rogers change into his playtime sneakers cannot help sensing that here is a man who’s willing to meet the child halfway. That one action tells him that Rogers has a grown-up life of his own somewhere else, but that he has set aside this time to pay full attention to the children’s concerns. By the time the sneakers are laced…Mr. Rogers has invited and welcomed the child into a safe, familiar, and caring world.

When Rogers walked through the door of his “television house”, he was dressed in the kind of clothes he wore while working in the offices of Family Communications. And he changed into more casual clothes better suited to hanging out in the Neighborhood. And those sweaters? They didn’t come from wardrobe. Fred’s mother knitted those sweaters with her own loving hands, and gave them to her son as a Christmas present. In these sincere, simple ways, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood balanced reality with fantasy throughout the run of the show.

Real People, Real Friendships

In “The Gentle Tongue: How Language Affected the World of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” Louisa Danielson says,

Through his language, and lyrics of his songs, Rogers implements a system of emotional survival. He shows his viewers how to understand themselves, and from his position as the chief adult in the show, Rogers yet again fulfills the grown-up role of informing and comforting his audience in the mores of emotional responsibility.

Mr. Rogers brought wonderful people from the real world into the Neighborhood so that he could introduce them to us, his television neighbors. Occasionally, a special guest would return for multiple visits. This would deepen the experience by adding old memories to new experiences, just like friends do in real life.

Some of these these repeat appearances,  cellist Yo Yo Ma and gymnast Cheney Umphry appeared, occurred several years apart.  But one of my favorite Neighborhood visitors isn’t famous or flashy. She is a little girl named Chrissy Thompson. Chrissy was cast as Mr. and Mrs. McFeely’s granddaughter when she was six years old, and returned many times as she grew into a self-assured young lady.

(image credit: Neighborhood Archive)

Chrissy first appeared on the show  in episode 1324 in 1973. Mr. Rogers runs into Chrissy and Mrs. McFeely while they are having a soda in Brockett’s Bakery. After a few minutes of conversation about their plans for the evening, Mrs. McFeely and Chrissy prepare to leave. Mrs. McFeely asks Chrissy if she needs help her with her braces. Chrissy agrees by sticking her legs out. As Mrs. McFeely begins to strap on her leg braces, they joke around bit. They talk about the fact that these are new braces. As Chrissy adjusts Mrs. McFeely’s work, she talks about how it was difficult to use them at first. Then she says that once she got used to them, she started walking faster than ever before.

Chrissy appeared on the show several more times over the years. Then in 1985, she made a very special visit to the Neighborhood in episode 1543 to talk to Mr. Rogers about her recent high school graduation. They discuss the challenges Chrissy faced growing up with spina bifida: facing people who didn’t accept her, finding true friends, and dealing with the frustration of her physical limitations. They also talk about the good times she had: going to camp, making friends, and proving to the world (and to herself) that she could accomplish great things in life.

Throughout the conversation, you see her and Mr. Rogers thinking deeply about these experiences. Their conversation is completely natural. There isn’t a single moment that feels scripted, stagey, forced, or rushed. They pause to think, considering their words and memories. Note in the screenshots below how the composition of these close-ups gives kids a chance to see how long-time friends talk to each other about serious stuff. The way this scene is filmed is so intimate, you feel as if you are kneeling on the bottom step of the Mister Rogers’ porch. As the camera turns from Chrissy to Mister Rogers, and back again, it pulls in so close that you can see their very real thoughts and feelings play across their faces.

 

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It is impossible to miss the fact that being on show meant the world to both the real-life Chrissy and Fred Rogers. As Mr. McFeely returns from his errand, Mister Rogers is concluding a particularly primo Mr. Roger-ism, “There’s lots between us. Lots of years of growing, and lots of very wonderful memories.”

Now, for the most part, previous visits with Chrissy would have occurred before the show’s target audience was even born. So, why even bother digging into these memories? Well, for one thing, young children are always finding themselves in situations where all the grown ups remember events they don’t. This isn’t always a comfortable moment for kids. Experiencing this sort of conversation with Mister Rogers’ gentle, supportive help is a great way to help young children navigate this type of situation in real life.

What’s more, how often to children get to witness deep conversations like this in real life or in the media? It’s rare, if not completely unique.  Is there a better way to introduce young children to art of the heart-to-heart conversation? What happens if we don’t learn to navigate this sort of caring talk in our early years? I shiver to think! Having a heart-to-heart with a friend is just about the best thing a person can do to appreciate all life has to offer. Mister Rogers had a particular gift for this sort of gab, and he shared it with young children so they could grow to be happy, healthy adults.

Make New Friends, and Keep the Old

When it comes down to it, this library program has been a true labor of love. I started putting it together because it just made me feel so darn sad to think that the children in my library were growing up without Fred Rogers in their lives. Don’t get me wrong, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is an awesome show. My storytime kids know all the wonderful songs and characters that made the leap from live-action to animation. The producers have done an amazing job developing a new approach for Fred Rogers’ original vision and curriculum. In fact, we had a lot of Daniel Tiger fans showing up to Neighbor Time this year.

This gave the caregivers and me a chance to talk about how we watched the old show when we were young. We talked about the “New Neighborhood” and the “Old Neighborhood”. We discussed how television shows, like people, can change over time, but still retain what is most essential and important.

On the last day of Neighbor Time, we actually discussed Daniel Tiger vs Mister Rogers, and discovered that the kids didn’t want to choose one over the other. The shows felt like two completely different experiences, and they wanted both. I suppose that was my goal from the beginning. Kids have easy access to Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood; but for the most part, they only watch Mister Rogers at the library. When I asked if they thought Mister Rogers seemed “old fashioned” the kids and grownups all said no. In fact, the grownups all gushed at how well the show stood up to time. They agreed that this was a show they actually loved watching with the kids in their care. They found it soothing and engaging. One parent jokingly complained that she often get so involved in the show that she forgets to check her phone for incoming text messages. I consider this a win, no matter how you slice it.

So this is Part 1 of what will hopefully be a  series of posts. As you may have already noticed, I didn’t get to any of the nitty gritty as to how this program really works. But I had to do a little reflect on whys and wherefores. I will attack that in Part 2: Getting Down to Business.

As it happens, one of my very favorite people in the blogosphere, Rebecca Zarazan Dunn is including some stuff about Mr. Rogers in her epic post about Homeschool Planning & Daily Rhythms. So go see her post because she is a 🦄. Thanks for the kick in the pants, friend-o. I needed it.

 

 

 

 

 


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Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Or Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood as a Library Program, Pt 2: Getting Down to Business

As a librarian, I’m always looking for new ways to get kids excited about reading and learning. Recently, however, I’ve been turning to an old favorite for new ideas: Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood (MRN). For more than three decades, Fred Rogers sent a simple, yet powerful, message to children everywhere: “I like you just the way you are.” I was a loyal Mr. Rogers fan growing up. So when Amazon added more than 300 episodes to their streaming services I decided to revisit my favorite television neighbor.

I expected to revisit a familiar, yet dated, childhood hero. I thought I’d watch one or two episodes, and be done with it. But I found myself mesmerized from the opening song to the closing credits. I realized I was staring into a treasure trove of ideas and early learning strategies that are every bit as relevant today as they were in 1968, 1978, 1988, 1998, and 2001 when Fred Rogers signed off on the series finale. So I decided to design a library program where children and their grownups could experience the awesomeness that is  Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood in the library.

After a year of trial and error–and quite a bit of research–I have developed a process that turns this classic kids show into a simple low-cost program that kid and their grownups love.

I’ll break down the post into 3 sections: Selecting Episodes, Previewing and Planning, and Neighbor Time IRL. At the end, I will lay out 5 episodes that I have used in Neighbor Time, and the activities we did in the second half of the program.

Selecting Episodes

Before I sat down to watch MRN as an adult, I assumed it was an episodic show. I started out cherry picking the episodes. I would read the descriptions, and watch the ones that sounded interesting to me. It being a particularly cold winter, I marathoned my way through 20 or so episodes out of their intended sequence before I realized I was doing it wrong. Watching all willy nilly meant I was missing out on the subtle nuances of the structure, pacing, storytelling, and continuity.

It turns out, MRN was written and produced in five-episode theme-based series. When they were in regular syndication, they always showed themes in sequence with the first episode airing on Monday, the second on Tuesday, and so on. The themes covered could be concept-focused: Big and Little, Up and Down, or Things to Wear; or they could be more social-emotional Competition, Divorce, Mad Feelings, etc. Because the ideas are interrelated in the day and in the week, watching them in sequence offers children a variety of ways to look at–and learn about–a given topic. Don’t get me wrong, every day in the Neighborhood can stand on its own. BUT when watched in sequence, you begin to see the depth with which themes are explored.

Mister Rogers never skims the surface. He always dives deeply into a topic. And yet, he somehow manages to never hit you over the head with the theme. The themes guide the show, but they never constrain the content. Mister Rogers is always putting old ideas (or songs, activities, etc) in new contexts, and new ideas (songs, activities, etc.) in familiar contexts. In some ways, you really never know where a television visit will take you. Every day is an opportunity to sing different songs, or try something new, interesting, and even weird. Most importantly, Mister Rogers never forgets to talk about important stuff. He never hurries anyone through anything, or skips a step to save time. I truly can’t find a single experience that feels cut off or abbreviated. This is something you never see in television.

So when I started planning this program, I knew I wanted to show episodes in sequence as much as possible. The PBSkids website offers nearly 50 full episodes for free on their website. In order to keep the development/planning/testing process simple, I  decided to select from these episodes for now. I needed to populate four six-week sessions. This meant I needed 24 episodes to fill up a full years-worth of Neighbor Times.  Luckily, PBSkids offer several themes in full, or mostly full. This left me with only a few options, which is good. After all, it’s my nature to want to show ALL THE EPISODES.

In the future, I would love to expand this program, and find a way to dip into Amazon’s extraordinarily extensive, well-curated offerings. This service offers the most variety with weekly themes in tact. But until then, I am happy that the decision was made for me.  I chose the four complete themes available on PBSkids.com–“Making Mistakes”, “Music”, “Celebrations, and “Friends”–and a four-episode theme (“Helping the Environment”).

Previewing & Planning

When I get down to planning a Neighbor Time session, I watch the episode once straight through first. One of my main goals for this program is to explore effective joint media engagement (JME) strategies in the same way I utilize early literacy practices in storytime. As I watch, I take notes, transcribe my favorite quotes, and brainstorm ideas for talking points and activities. Being prepared for JME means I am ready to recognize the moments that will mean most to the kids and caregivers who attend the program regularly.

After this first viewing, I go over my notes to identify opportunities for participation and active viewing. Television visits vary greatly in terms of interactive opportunities, but each one has at least a few elements that get kids involved in the action of show. Some of these interactive moments are complete segments. One of the best examples, is a visit from the Neighborhood’s resident P.E. teacher and school principal, Marilyn Barnett.

Marilyn Barnett and Fred Rogers, lifting those knees!

Marilyn Barnett and Fred Rogers, lifting those knees!

Barnett showed up at Mr. Rogers’ house every once in a to show him some kid-friendly exercises. I love showing these episodes to kids. It’s a good opportunity to get up on our feet and get our wiggles out. Other interactive moments are small moments, like when Maggie Stewart teaches Mr. Rogers how to say something in sign language, or when Mr. Rogers sings one of his signature songs. Others are teeny tiny moments, just a nod or a hello, but I like to take all the opportunities I can to get kids involved.

One example of a teeny tiny moment happens whenever Mr. Rogers meets someone on a field trip.  These moments stand out to me for some reason. I love the way he strides in introduces himself to the first person he sees. Then he turns to the camera and introduces us–his television neighbor–to this new friend as well. I always love these moments.  In almost every case, no matter who the guest is, a world-famous Olympic champion or a line worker in a soup factory, these introductions strike the perfect note for young children: warm, friendly, and calm. The guests are never overbearing, stiff, or even awkward. It may seem like a small thing, but it never fails to captivate me. How did they manage to illicit these sincere moments from such a diversity of guests? I imagine this sort of thing is the result of deliberate direction and blocking. But I haven’t had a chance to research this yet, but maybe one day…

Anyway, I use these seemingly insignificant moments to encourage kids (by example, I don’t push) to look into the guests’ faces, and say hello back. I started doing this pretty early on in the year. The parents teased me a bit at first. But over time, even the shyest kids have joined me in these television greetings. Even if they just manage wave and smile, it seems like a good way to practice meeting new people. This can be a huge struggle for kids. It think it’s a great way to practice greetings in a safe space. The people on the screen can’t take their shyness the wrong way or put them on the spot. Like I said, I like to be prepared in advanced for all of these opportunities for active viewing, no matter how small.

After two viewings, here’s what my notes end up looking like.

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Once I have all this down, I take out Mister Rogers’ Plan & Play Book:

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This brilliant activity book was originally created as a professional resource for teachers and childcare providers while the show was still on the air. Each entry connects the content from an episode with activities, conversation starters, and insights into child development written by Mr. Rogers, himself.

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I try to match up my notes to the “Thoughts of the Week” to get a little more insight into how they are communicated through the content of the show.

Neighbor Time IRL

The set up for this program is pretty simple. Our storytime room offers a pretty nifty multimedia set-up: A/V equipment, projector, and retractable projection screen built into the ceiling. I use a laptop that hooks into the projector’s HDMI input. I set up a few chairs in the back for adults who can’t sit on the floor. Then I open the doors. I greet the kids and parents. Then I say a few words about the ongoing theme, and press play. You’re not going to believe this, but nearly all the parents stay in the room for the whole program. I didn’t even make that a rule. They enjoy the program almost as much–and sometimes more than–the kids. We watch a full episode. Then we have about 10 minutes of circle time in which we discuss what happened in the episode.

These discussions are by far my favorite part of the program. During the episode parents usually sit along the wall with their stuff, and the kids pile up in the middle of the room like a litter of puppies. For the discussion, I ask the parents to join us as we sit it a circle for a little gab session. In general, the discussion is pretty simple. I just go around the room and ask each person two questions: 1) “What was your favorite thing that happened in the show today?” and 2)”Did anyone say anything that meant a lot to you?” As you can imagine, kids always have an answer to the first question, and it’s never what you expect. I am always astounded by the level of detail the kids recall during these discussions.

For example, Episode 1561 (see below) includes a tour of a trumpet factory. The kids were all over it. During our discussion each kid cited a very specific detail of this segment as their favorite moment. One little girl talked about the women who assembles the trumpet valves. She remembered her name, described the various parts that made up the valves, the steps necessary to put them together, and the fact that her son plays one of the trumpets that she assembled. That’s a lot of information for an almost-four-year-old to keep straight, but she was clearly enamored of this particular television friend.

The second question is a bit more of a stumper, but something really cool happens when I ask it. Often, the kid often his head to the side, then looks up at his grownup. Then the grown up throws out something that she liked, and they talk it over. And that’s how the ball gets rolling. As you can imagine, this exchange often leads to some very sweet moments and warm feelings. And I must say, this is what makes MRN such a unique viewing experience for children and adults together. Words and ideas mean a lot in the Neighborhood.  Feelings are felt deeply, and they stay with you. Talking about ideas and feelings is a critical social-emotional skill. It isn’t an easy thing to learn later in life if you don’t experience them early. These low-pressure discussions offer kids the opportunity to learn how to participate in nurturing conversations about important issues.

Finally, we spend the last 20 minutes doing a hands-on activity: a craft, science experiment, open play, interpretive dance, whatever seems to fit the episode. I always refer to Mister Rogers Plan & Play first for activity ideas. About half of the time the activity is ideal for Neighbor Time. But sometimes the activity doesn’t quite fit the format. They might be too long; require supplies we’re not supposed to use in our program room; or simply require a different sort of relationship than we can cultivate in a library program. In this case, I try to browse around the book looking for an alternative I can adapt to fit my needs. And if this doesn’t work, I reach into my librarian’s bag-o-tricks to find something we can all enjoy.

5 Neighbor Times for You

Here are the activities I used for a week of television visits focusing on Celebrations (1561-1565)

Week 1–How People Make Trumpets–Episode 1561

It’s trumpet time! Mister Rogers brings a toy trumpet to show his television neighbor, but it doesn’t work properly. Luckily, Mr. McFeely shows up with a replacement from the Neighborhood toy store. While dropping off the trumpet, he shows a video from a visit he made to a trumpet factory. In Make-Believe, King Friday decrees that an approaching comet belongs to him, and issues a decree that everyone must celebrate it’s arrival. Meanwhile, Henrietta Pussycat doesn’t feel festive even though her birthday is just around the corner.

Activity: Plan a party! I put a big sheet of paper up on the board, and we planned the party for the last Neighbor Time of the year. Then each child made an invitation to the party. Some kids wanted to trade invitations, and others wanted to take home their own invitation.

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Week 2–A Visit to the Planetarium–Episode 1562

Mister Rogers arrives with a basket and a ball, and tells us that Chuck Aber is in the backyard shooting hoops. He goes outside to say hello, and Chuck shows him how to shoot a basket using an easy underhand technique. Next, Mister Rogers visits the Planetarium where Audrey Williams demonstrates the large projector she uses to show a starry sky on the ceiling when talk about stars and constellations.  In Make-Believe, preparations are underway for King Friday’s comet celebration. Lady Elaine thinks King Friday is getting carried away with the comet festivities, and decides she will throw a party for Henrietta’s birthday instead. Chuck Aber tries to cheer up Henrietta, but she still doesn’t feel like celebrating the comet.

Activity: I bumped the activity for Ep. 1562 to week 3 because I wanted to see if I could get these little neighbors interested in the cosmos. I dug up my presentation from Armchair Astronomy, and used the laptop to show some great images from APOD. Then I read some of the captions, which are full of lots of great action words. I encouraged the kids to use their bodies to act out what I was reading. This was a blast. In fact, they asked if we could look at more “star pictures” during Neighbor Time for the rest of the year. I agreed, of course. After all, who am I to blow against the wind?

Week 3–Wynton Marsalis–Episode 1563

Mister Rogers arrives with a tape player. He plays a cassette recording of Wynton Marsalis playing the trumpet. Then he goes to Negri’s Music Shop where he meets Mr. Marsalis (OMG, he’s in his 20s, and looks so young.) In Make-Believe, plans continue to come together for Friday’s Comet. Lady Elaine reports that she visited the Purple Planet, where saw the comet. She insists that no one can own a comet, and they should focus their efforts on celebrating Henrietta’s birthday. Lady Aberlin talks to Daniel Tiger. He is pretty shaken up after a run-in with he thought was a monster. Fortunately, it was just Purple Panda, who apologizes to Daniel for scaring him. Then Lady A, talks with Henrietta who is sad, and wishes she was beautiful.

Activity: We used the activity that was matched with Ep 1562 Mister Rogers Plan & Play: Connect the stars. I set out a bunch of foil stars stickers, construction paper, and markers. The kids made constellations using their imagination. I found a Wynton Marsalis CD, and played it while the kids were making their craft. Then at the end, we all got together, and the kids talked about their constellations and the strange beings who live there. Then they wanted to look at more images from APOD. So we did that for a while, too.

Week 4–Henrietta’s Birthday–Episode 1564

Mister Rogers arrives with a cake that he needs to finish decorating. Someone has written a partial message in icing that reads, “I celebrate.” Mister Rogers completes it by writing “you”. Then he adds candles, and sings a new happy birthday song that he wrote. Then he shows a film about how people make birthday candles. In Make-Believe, the comet finally arrives, and King Friday is forced to accept the fact that no one person can own a comet. The stars and comets in the sky belong to themselves. And we must all share in the experience of seeing them move across the sky. He takes this disappointment surprisingly well. Queen Sarah tells him that she is proud for taking this “disappointment, and turning it into a lesson” for everyone in Make-Believe.

Activity: MRPP’s recommended an activity for Ep. 1564 wasn’t practical for a library program. Luckily, they offered an alternative that did: Decorating Pretend Cakes (from Ep 1179, p. 96). This immediately made me think of the pie art project Rebecca Zarazan Dunn did after reading Tea Party in the Woods back in January. To make this project a bit simpler to do with a big group, I used some thin paper plates we had in our craft closet.Then, I got out our big pickle jar of miscellaneous craft stuffs. It’s stuffed with scraps: yarn, paper, felt, pom poms, buttons, googly eyes, and other stuff that we save rather than putting in the trash. We take out this jar for most of our decorating crafts. I don’t have pictures of the end products the kids made–but trust me–they made some pretty impressive fake cakes.

Week 5–A Star for Kitty–Episode 1565

Mister Rogers arrives, and immediately introduces the newest Neighborhood opera, A Star for Kitty. Lady Aberlin plays a kitty who loves stars so much that she makes a special birthday wish. She points up at the tiniest star in the sky, and asks if she can have it as a birthday present. When Tiny Star (played by Daniel Striped Tiger) hears of this, he is alarmed. He doesn’t want to leave the sky, so he runs off to hide in a big tube of Superbright toothpaste. Meanwhile, Kitty is asleep. She dreams that she is taking a twinkling class so that she can twinkle like a star. She isn’t having much success when Basketball Star (played by Chuck Aber) arrives to air his concerns about Tiny Star being taken from his home. Kitty agrees to leave Tiny Star in the night sky where he belongs. Before you know it, she is shining brightly. When Kitty wakes up she has new-found respect for her own home. She hops out of bed ready to celebrate her birthday.

Activity: We had the party we planned in Week 1. I decorated the room with streamers and fresh flowers.  I made some die cut leaves. I wrote a Mister Rogers’ quote on one side of each leaf. Then, I stuck a small magnet to the other side, so the kids could stick them to their refrigerators. Then, I blew up balloons, and tied the leaves to the end of each balloon string. I also made up goodie bags for the kids which included Mister Rogers coloring pages, a party favor from our big miscellaneous prize box, and a small cup with a lid so that each kid could take home a flower.

So that’s Neighbor Time. Let me know what you think.

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Flannel Friday: I Ganked This From Mister Rogers!

Some of you may know that I have developed an enormous Mr Rogers obsession. Long story short, about 9 months ago, I found out Amazon Prime offers more than 300 episodes of Mister Rogers Neighborhood with their Prime streaming service. I decided to watch one, and was immediately hooked. I was like, “this will change the way I do storytime FOREVER!!!” With that, I embarked on a crazy research project. I decided to watch AND read everything I could find about Fred Rogers. It turns out that this is a much more ambitious project than I originally thought. (Sidenote: I am a pretty expert couch potato. I was a film major in college, and I’ve worked for several film festivals, so I know how to get through video.)

I mean, 9 months, and I haven’t even finished these 300 episodes…and it’s not for want of effort or interest. Every single episode of MRN is FULL of CONTENT. What’s more, I have began to explore the MOUNTAIN of archival, documentary, expository, and professional development materials available through PBS, Fred Rogers Foundation, the Fred Rogers Company, and the (independent) and astoundingly thorough Neighborhood Archive. And let’s not forget the books, there are many, many, many books by and about Fred Rogers, Family Communications, friends, fans, etc.

Suffice it to say, I have been taken over by the learning monster. So much so, in fact, that I haven’t even been able to really think about where or how to start. So I am just going to start with the smallest little bit. But believe me, this is just the beginning! In fact, I am cooking up a way to not only share what I know, but I would love partners. I’ve had a few librarian friends contact me with Mr. R questions of various sizes: big, small, general, specific, etc. I think in all cases, I have overdone it. But I CAN’T HELP MYSELF!!! This post is getting away from me, so I will get to the purpose of this post: Flannel Friday.

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Ways to Praise a Child is a magnet board I made for my Toddler Timers, but it would be great for virtually any age. In fact, it would a great tool for a parent workshop!

I was reading through old issues Around the Neighborhood on the Neighborhood Archive (This is a newsletter that Mr R’s production company, Family Communications published for parents and childcare workers when the show was in production…Unfortunately, I CAN’T REMEMBER WHICH ISSUE AT THIS POINT AND THERE ARE A LOT TO SCHLEP THROUGH, BUT GIVE ME TIME AND I WILL FIND IT). Anyway, I was reading through these old newsletters when I spotted a little blurb in the sidebar entitled, “Ways to Praise a Child”. I clipped it to hang above my desk. praise

Then, as I was staring at it the next day it came to me…”This would make an awesome storytime activity.” I opened a google doc, and typed up all the phrases, played around with the typography, and Voilà!” I printed it on magnet paper, and had a great magnet

When I used it in storytime, I just asked parents, “Do you ever run out of ways to praise your children? I mean, they learn so much, so quickly, it can be hard to think of what to say without sounding like a broken record!” Everyone loved this, parents, AND ESPECIALLY THE KIDS! In fact, they loved it so much, we didn’t have a chance to read any books. The kids loved hearing the praise out of context. And during playtime, they weren’t only repeating the various phrases, they were demonstrating the behavior that triggered the praise! How cool is that?

It just goes to show, WE NEED TO STUDY MISTER ROGERS NEIGHBORHOOD! Kids, parents, teachers, and especially librarians must dig into this material! It will change your work and your life.

I can share the doc, if anyone would like to use it.  Happy Friday! Megan is our lovely host this week…Thanks Megan!

 

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