My Favorite Neighbor

Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Magazine

If you haven’t read a few of my older blog entries, then you might not know this, but I am from the Pittsburgh area.

The land of the best football team ever, The Pittsburgh Steelers; older church ladies that pinch pierogies; the record holder for most bridges; and everyone’s favorite ketchup, Heinz.

But one of our treasures that we are very proud of is Fred Rogers.

If you are child of the 1970s or later you will know him as the friendly face that would ask you to be his neighbor while zipping his sweater (which were all made by his mother) and putting on his Keds to start the show.

For me, Mister Rogers was more than a local icon, he was a friend.

Yesterday was his birthday and it really made me sit back and think more about this man that had a hand in the development of so many young people.

Every time I would sit down to watch his show, even to this day, I feel like I am home and I am a kid again.

He knew the perfect way to talk to kids without being patronizing and how to make everyday subjects and outings seem like an adventure. (To this day I still remember the video on how crayons were made.)

When I did my internship at WQED radio, which also houses the television station and Pittsburgh Magazine, I was given a tour which included the TV studio where the show was shot. There are still areas where the gumdrop-like flooring shone through in an almost homage to the man. Even in my 20s I was so excited to be stepping into the Neighborhood of Make Believe.

Now as a mom myself, I was really excited to see that the spirit of Mister Rogers lives well within “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.” While my childhood favorites Henrietta Pussycat and X the Owl are there, it is a whole new cast of characters that take center stage and allow this newest generation the opportunity to identify with these new characters.

I am forever grateful to Fred Rogers and the legacy that he has left behind and the continued work that his foundation and PBS have done to provide quality, educational programming for a new generation.

Now, this is where I am going to step on soapbox just for a second to say how important it is that public broadcasting stays around for not just this current generation of future leaders but for the ones after them, and after them and so on. And this is why budget cuts to this sector can be of major detriment.

While a lot of kids will have access to cable channels like Sprout, and pay for video services like Netflix, it is the underprivileged kids that will suffer. For many, the only channels they get are the major networks and PBS. Big Bird, Cookie Monster and Elmo are who they rely on to teach them how to read and how to add, while Daniel and crew teach them how to be a good person.

I am not telling you to contact your political representatives to share your displeasure or even tell you to make a huge donation, but just to watch these programs with your kids. To help them cultivate an early love of learning, one that will continue for the rest of their life.

Mister Rogers would have wanted it that way.

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