Sunday, March 29, 2009

Musictivity - Won't You Be My Neighbor [1994]

This publication includes roughly 30 pages of activities for children to complete as they listen to the associated cassette tape and sing along with Mister Rogers' songs.

The book opens with another message for parents from Mister Rogers:

Music has always been an important part of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. Through our Neighborhood songs I've been able to share everyday thoughts and feelings that I believe are central to childhood. The songs have given me ways to express a full range of human emotions, from the good feelings children can have of pride, caring, and difficult ones, like anger or jealousy or fear.

The "musictivity" book offers some ways to build on the ideas in the songs and to encourage children's creative play about the themes. When we help children talk and play about things, they're more likely to go on and use those ideasin their everyday experiences. At the same time, it's so helpful to show them we value their imagination adn their creativity, both essential for self-esteem and learning.

We're grateful for all that you bring to our songs and to these activities. Music has always enriched and nourished my life. Whatever ways you have of appreciating music can make a real difference to the children in your family or in your care.

Parents are encouraged to listen to the recording and work through the corresponding activities with their children as they talk about the themes. The final two pages of the book include an extensive list of suggestions for parents as they work with children on these lessons.

The activities themselves are quite creative and very relevant to the Neighborhood program itself. Included are such things as finding Xs hidden in X the Owl's tree, finding silly things that don't belong in Mister Rogers' fish tank, and helping characters find their ways to their Neighborhood homes. Scattered throughout the activities are pages containing the lyrics to the various songs on the recording.

Overall, this is a terrific collection of music and lessons for young people. However, there is one aspect of this book that I don't particularly care for. It seems that in the Mister Rogers books from the 1970's the characters were illustrated very similarly to the ways they appeared on the show itself. In this book though, the characters have been given somewhat of a modernized update -- a change I'm not so much a fan of. The character receiving the biggest makeover seems to be Lady Elaine. As you can see from the image below, she no long has her regular red-nosed appearance. Instead, she looks more like the kind old woman next door who got dressed with her eyes closed. The changes to the characters appearances is a very small price to pay, however, for a publication that is otherwise a very solid educational tool.
For more on this Musictivity set, visit the Neighborhood Archive.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Devotion in Motion: The Real Deal

I received an email late this past week from Brother John L. Cash who regularly writes under the name "Country Preacher Dad" for a devotional website called Devotion in Motion. Brother John forwarded me a link to a devotion he had recently written about sincerity. His work can be read below or you can feel free to read Brother John's original post. Many thanks for sharing, John.

Devotion in Motion: The Real Deal

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16 (NKJV)

By Bro. John L. Cash, “Country Preacher Dad”

If your house caught on fire, what would you grab? (We’re assuming that the rest of the family and the baby pictures are safe.) Susan says that she would grab my anti-snore sleep apnea machine, because she can’t get any sleep when I don’t have it. I would grab the letter I got from Fred Rogers. You know, Mr. Rogers, of “Mister Rogers Neighborhood.”

When I was in Bible college, back in the early 1980’s, I once found myself in charge of “Spiritual Emphasis Week”. It was my job to plan activities to revive our spirits and to schedule a special guest speaker. For this task I had a budget of $50. So, here was my thinking: “Let’s see, I need a preacher to come and speak. He needs to be somebody really impressive. I don’t have any money to pay him, so he’ll have to be somebody really nice. Hmm. Mr. Rogers is a Presbyterian minister, and he is famous. And he’s really nice. I think I’ll write him a letter.” So, I did.

Imagine my surprise, when less than a week later, I received two envelopes in the mail. One contained two autographed photographs of Fred Rogers—signed personally to me! The other contained a letter from the man himself—handwritten in his distinctive left-handed slanting script.

What Mr. Rogers wrote in that letter warmed my heart. He regretted that he couldn’t come to Spiritual Emphasis Week, but that if he was ever in the area he would drop by for a visit. (I believe he would have.) He wished me grace and peace in my life—and pointed out that the letter was written on a greeting card with the trolley and all the puppets from the Land of Make Believe. He wrote that he had chosen this card because the cards were new and the office had just gotten them in; he thought I might like one. I did.

The famous people that I have admired have often disappointed me upon closer examination. When you check the facts closely, celebrities are often the complete opposite of the good roles they play on screen. But I have not found that to be so with Mr. Rogers. I’ve read everything I can find about this man as well as everything I’ve found that he has written. My conclusion is that he was the real deal. One interviewer said, “In real life, he’s more Mr. Rogers than ‘Mr. Rogers.’” How surprising in this age in which we live! A man who has the reputation of being kind who actually IS kind!

I have more to say about the importance of the ideas of Fred Rogers, but that will have to keep until another time. Today I just want to point out the power (and great scarcity) of sincerity. As parents, our children sometimes doubt what we say, but they are never mistaken about who we are. So, let us strive to be genuine. That’s not the same as being perfect, because sometimes being genuine means we tell our kids, “Hey, I messed up.” Our job as parents is to try to be “the real deal” and to strive to make sure our “real deal” is something good.

In today’s lesson text (at the top) Jesus said we should let our lights shine so that people will glorify God. Dear Mamas, let’s pray this week that the Lord will fill our hearts with His Light and that the sincerity of our lives will brighten the lives of our babies and all the world around us.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Thanks for your help today.

Eventually we'll get back to the final two episodes from the Kindness and Unkindness series, but first one final treat compliments of Rashidi Barnett. In addition to he and his mother graciously providing comments about their experiences on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, Rashidi was kind enough to share a few photographs from the set of the show. The first is a black and white of Marilyn Barnett, Mister Rogers, and the children performing some stretching exercises after jumping rope.

I can only assume that this black and white image was shot during a rehearsal for the episode because, as you can see from the image below, when the similar stretching took place on the broadcast episode the children were seated in a different order.
The other image provided by Rashidi I can only describe as "amazing." What a terrific example of the kind and loving nature of Fred Rogers captured in this photograph and in his comments:
"For Rashidi with thanks for your help today. - Mister Rogers 3/8/88"
Again, my many thanks to Rashidi Barnett and Marilyn Barnett for their willingness to share about their time in the Neighborhood.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Thoughts and Memories from Marilyn Barnett

As promised yesterday, today's post is provided by Marilyn Barnett. According to the official Mister Rogers' Neighborhood site, "When Marilyn Barnett first came to Mister Rogers' real Neighborhood, she was a physical education teacher" and is best remembered for visiting the Neighborhood and "teaching Mister Rogers and viewers simple exercises." I hope you'll find her thoughts and memories as touching as I have.
[Fred Rogers] was more than just a person that I worked with for 30 years, he was a very special man. It wasn't just a television to show to him. 
Fred cared about people, kids, children and adults. Some of the most special times were going to study to talk before the taping. Then at break, I would watch his choices of foods. It was exciting to see how healthy. Sometimes he would just eat yogurt. 
He never focused on himself, and even when you complimented him, he would find some way to return the compliment back to you. He was one of the most unselfsh men I've ever met, and he was extremely personable.
He also knew the importance making sure what he said came across in a very positive way. He studied what he said, and thought about it. He was also open to making changes. If there was a script written for me and I had a suggestion, he would listen and possibly change it. He respected people that came to the table and their area of expertise. He would say "Marilyn is right, that's a good idea." 
And from being around so many different people, he was always being taught. He was a lifelong learner. That's going to help children learn, from learning from a variety of people, that's his gift to the world. 
I miss those talks with Mr. Rogers. He was full of energy and positivity. It started from him and trickled down through the cast. He is deeply missed and we still have all the tapes, and things he taught. 
He did more than educate children, he educated the world.
Most people are most concerned with the cognitive part of child development. For Fred, it was more than about the abc's and counting. He was concerned about the affective domain, because if you can reach kids how they feel about things, their interpersonal beings, the total child, then you have an opportunity to reach them. He focused on the feelings before he went into cognitive development. 
- Dr. Marilyn F. Barnett, PhD

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Day in his Neighborhood

This past weekend I was contacted by a younger reader of this blog who expressed to me her deep appreciation for Mister Rogers and the effect his work has had on her life. Included in her email was a written tribute to Mister Rogers Neighborhood. With her permission, I'd like to share it with you today.

Title: A Day in his Neighborhood...
Written by: Sarah Jo

It's such a beautiful day in the neighborhood, as he walks through the door, a smile and a wave, goes down the steps and unbuttons his suit. He starts to sing and opens the closet door to get a cardigan from the rainbow of colours inside.He puts it on, just one sleeve at a time, zips up his sweater, handmade by his mother, he takes a seat, just in front of the stairs, and takes off his loafers in favor of some blue sneakers and you notice he has brought something to show you.

It's something you've never seen before today, it fascinates you, you are now entranced to find out what this wonderful thing could be, and he explains, every word you remember, you couldn't possibly forget, he tells you so well, then he shows you how it works, and it makes you smile to see a man of his age playing with play things, and then all the sudden, you hear a knock at the door!

Could it be Joe Negri? Chuck Aber? He looks out the window and sees that it's Mr. Mcfeely! Perhaps he has a speedy delivery? So he opens the door and greets the mailman, he has no package to give but they exchange some words with each other anyhow. Once they are finished the delivery man heads out the door and waves a loving goodbye to his friend and neighbor. He shuts the door and heads over to the Trolley for some make - believe. You listen just to hear the sound of it passing by him on the tracks, and as quickly as it comes it goes, and make - believe begins, when he finally comes back from his imagination, he tells of the morals meant to be learned.

Then it's time to feed the fish, he smiles at them, then he stares at you for just a moment, a little serious, and smiles again as he starts to sing his leaving song, and begins to take off all the stuff he put on after he first came in the door earlier and gets back into his formal attire he once wore. He picks up his toy he had also brought to show you, and tells you how you are special, and that there's no one like you in the whole world. He waves a humble goodbye, and promises to be back again, heads out the door, and you know in your heart that you are growing inside.