Thursday, August 30, 2012

It’s a Beautiful New Day in the Neighborhood: “Mister Rogers” Legacy Continues

By Suzanne Kashuba

I’ll be in Washington, D.C. Labor Day weekend, taking in all the excitement of our nation’s capital – Jazz at the Hirshhorn’s sculpture garden, trendy shopping in Bethesda ¾ and Fred Rogers’ iconic red sweater at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

I know the museum features grander, more dramatic national treasures (the First Ladies’ gowns, even), but I’ve got to see the sweater! As an avid fan of public broadcasting, I feel it’s an American symbol with (almost) as much significance as the flag that inspired “The Star Spangled Banner.” (Yes, that’s a must-see in the Smithsonian, too.)

Fred Rogers was a Presbyterian minister and soft-spoken educator who launched PBS’ longest-running children’s series in 1968. He truly believed quality television could make a difference in children’s lives. He died in 2003, just shy of his 75th birthday, but his legacy lives on. Not only does “Mister Rogers Neighborhood” still air on PBS (including weekends at 7:30 a.m. on WNED-TV), but The Fred Rogers Company is set to premiere a new PBS series ¾ a sequel for a whole new generation.

“Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” will air weekdays at 11 a.m. on WNED-TV, beginning Labor Day (Monday, Sept. 3) with a special one-hour premiere.
But, wait a minute ¾  no one can replace Fred Rogers! That’s why the stars of the new series are animated. And just who is this Daniel Tiger? He’s the son of one of Rogers’ original puppets, Daniel Striped Tiger. And he’s cute as a button.
Like his human inspiration, Daniel invites young viewers to join him in “The Neighborhood of Make Believe.” He, too, uses engaging stories and music to help young kids understand their emotions, develop social skills and feel accepted and valued.
Today’s kids can explore “The Neighborhood” far beyond television. An exciting new Website features educational games for preschoolers and online resources for parents. Fans can even follow the new series on Twitter and Facebook.
Yes, much has changed since Fred Rogers first welcomed kids into his neighborhood 44 years ago, but some things stay the same. From the intimate stage of television, Fred Rogers engaged children in conversation, addressing his young audience personally and directly. And isn’t that what today’s blogs and social media platforms are doing, albeit on a more targeted basis?
“Daniel Tiger” continues Rogers’ tradition with a modern twist. Catchy, upbeat, sing-along songs reinforce important messages. Daniel dons a hip red sweater and tennis shoes. And the endearing Tiger lets today’s kids know they are unique and loved.
What are your memories of Mr. Rogers? What do you think about the new series? What item from today’s culture do you think the Smithsonian should acquire and display?

1 comment:

  1. I really looked forward to Mr. Rogers to see what he would encounter in his neighborhood. It was always very interesting. Thanks for reminding us of that great place.