Description: In a recent post I suggested that what the world needs a new superhero and that the best candidate I could think of was a man who wore red cardigan sweaters, spoke very clearly and slowly in ways that made him VERY understandable by preschoolers and who spoke about important things like strong emotions and social issues and pressures experienced right within one’s neighborhood. Who is that? Well, Fred Rogers, of course. It is instructive to unpack some of what made Fred, Fred as that can help us to see his superpowers more clearly. As good place to start is with a reflection upon a week of programing he put together for his show after having heard of how a small child serious injured himself when he tied a towel onto his back like a cape and tried to fly like Superman off of a roof. Fred often worried deeply about some of the ways in which adults and children programming misleads you children about the difference between fantasy and reality, sometimes with dangerous results. So, think for a few minutes about how you would talk with preschoolers about superheroes, if you wanted to reduce danger and risk, and then read the article linked below to see how Fred did just that.
Source: Mr. Rogers vs. the Superheroes, Maxwell King; An excerpt adapted from: The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers. Longreads.com
Date: December 19, 2019
Photo Credit: Associated Press
Look! Walking down the street talking to local children about the world around them and about their own thoughts and feelings about what they are seeing hearing and feeling! Is it Batman? Wonder Woman? Superman? Spiderman? No, Its Mr. Rogers! We need to figure out what Fred’s shoes involved for him and we need to walk and talk softly within them now that he is gone if we are to make the world as better place for children, adolescents and, frankly all of us.
Questions for Discussion:
- What are some of the ways that watching shows or cartoon involving superheroes might add risk into the lives of young children?
- How should we talk with preschoolers about the powers that superheroes are depicted as having?
- Why might we need superheroes that are more like Fred Rogers than Superman these days?
References (Read Further):
Peters, K. M., & Blumberg, F. C. (2002). Cartoon violence: Is it as detrimental to preschoolers as we think?. Early Childhood Education Journal, 29(3), 143-148. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Fran_Blumberg/publication/263138266_Cartoon_Violence_Is_It_as_Detrimental_to_Preschoolers_as_We_Think/links/5c114291299bf139c7547416/Cartoon-Violence-Is-It-as-Detrimental-to-Preschoolers-as-We-Think.pdf
Coyne, S. M., Linder, J. R., Rasmussen, E. E., Nelson, D. A., & Collier, K. M. (2014). It’sa bird! It’sa plane! It’sa gender stereotype!: Longitudinal associations between superhero viewing and gender stereotyped play. Sex Roles, 70(9-10), 416-430. http://www.academia.edu/download/44396414/Its_a_Bird_Its_a_Plane_Its_a_Gender_St20160404-7297-13o12ls.pdf
Coyne, S. M., Stockdale, L., Linder, J. R., Nelson, D. A., Collier, K. M., & Essig, L. W. (2017). Pow! Boom! Kablam! Effects of viewing superhero programs on aggressive, prosocial, and defending behaviors in preschool children. Journal of abnormal child psychology, 45(8), 1523-1535. http://education.biu.ac.il/files/education/shared/pow_boom_kablam_effects_of_viewing_superhero_programs.pdf
Bishop, R. (2003). The World’s Nicest Grown‐Up: A Fantasy Theme Analysis of News Media Coverage of Fred Rogers. Journal of Communication, 53(1), 16-31. http://www.mc.maricopa.edu/~vocewld/Rhetoric/pdf/Bishop-FredRodgersFantasyTheme.pdf
King, M. (2018). The good neighbor: The life and work of Fred Rogers.