“Many a movie will make you laugh or cry or think. But very few make you want to be a better person. “-Paul Asay, Plugged In
This Thanksgiving season fittingly kicked off with the premiere of the long-awaited film on Fred Rogers, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. The movie profiles the beloved national icon of character, social, and emotional development in children and has reignited a longing for the teachings of Mister Rogers in our society. Adults who grew up with the Mister Rogers Neighborhood series are reminded of the safety and warmth of the host and the life lessons he taught each episode. Today’s children need that same feeling of comfort and optimism in our world. We recommend that teachers and parents should reintroduce students to Rogers’ character education in their classrooms and homes.
“It’s You I Like”–Kids need to know they have value
Fred Rogers championed that the primary viewers of his show, children, were of the utmost importance and worth. Research indicates that children establish their self-esteem by age 5 and Rogers took this responsibility in his show seriously. He had a gentle and reaffirming way to let his child viewers know that he appreciated them and that they should appreciate themselves in every way.
With messages and songs like “It’s You I Like” and “I Like You As You Are”, penned by Fred Rogers, children heard important messages about their value as human beings and how to handle BIG FEELINGS.
Mental health of children is growing concern
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 7.1% of children aged 3-17 years have diagnosed anxiety and 3.2% of children aged 3-17 years have diagnosed depression. Depression and anxiety among children aged 6–17 years increased from 5.4% in 2003 to 8.4% in 2011–2012. In addition, 1 in 6 U.S. children aged 2–8 years (17.4%) had a diagnosed mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder. Mister Rogers Neighborhood had consistent themes of instilling self-worth in children, managing and regulating emotions, and strategies that help children thrive in life. The positive influence of the show on people’s lives is widespread. PBS offers a portal to watch full episodes and clips of the series as well as share personal experiences on the impact of the show using the #BeMyNeighbor hashtag.
Social-emotional learning is a necessity for children
Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was one of the most successful implementations of social-emotional learning in children’s broadcast television. Statistics show that schools that implement programs that directly teach social-emotional learning (SEL) competencies have positive transformations in students. According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), students participating in SEL interventions increased their academic achievement by 11 percentile points more than those not participating. About 57% more of students in schools with SEL programs showed improvement in skills such as improved classroom behavior, an increased ability to manage stress and depression, and better attitudes about themselves, others, and school. The Fred Rogers Center works to develop programs to support Rogers’ SEL mission including Simple Interactions, a practice-based approach for promoting positive adult-child interactions, resources for children and their caregivers, as well as research on child development.
Children’s lives are extremely busy
In today’s quest for providing the most for children, parents can make the mistake of overscheduling their children. Not having a full schedule of extracurricular activities can often make parents feel they are short changing their children. However, Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital indicate that this can lead to increased anxiety and depression as well as limit the authentic time for social relationships amongst children. Social interactions with peers and adults was at the foundation of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and considered a necessary skill to help students develop self-worth and resilience. In line with Mister Rogers, Johns Hopkins suggests creating family time and appreciating time for relaxation and reflection.
The wellbeing of children is at the heart of education and at the core of every educator’s mission. We’ve put together a free collection of resources to support Fred Rogers’ principles of character development and SEL into your classroom. Let’s keep the legacy of Fred Rogers active in classrooms for generations to come!