The Wisdom of Mister Rogers – Part 1

I had the good fortune to watch Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood on television with my children in the 80’s.  I also had the good fortune to hear Fred Rogers speak at a national teacher’s conference in the 90’s.  He was a kind and gentle man, and he commanded the love and respect of children and parents – because he understood children.  He also understood the world, and more importantly, children’s place in the world.

Most recently I watched (twice) the new documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?  I thought I knew… well, there is so much.  I didn’t know.

I highly recommend watching this film.  Remember, it is a documentary, not a movie.  I will share one story that blew my socks off:

Racial tension was at a high.  In the south, a film clip showed black people swimming in a pool, and white people walking along the outside edge of the pool pouring straight chlorine bleach into the pool.  So how did Mister Rogers handle that on his show?  He was sitting, with his feet in a wading pool.  Along comes Officer Clemmons, a popular (and black) character on the show.

“Hi Officer Clemmons.  How are you?  It’s a hot day.  Would you like to sit and cool off?”

They sit side-by-side exchanging greetings, and Officer Clemmons takes off his shoes and socks, and joins Mister Rogers in the wading pool.  Their feet are swimming together, black and white.  It’s that subtle.  It’s that powerful.

What a perfect way to combat racial prejudice.  Better yet, what a brilliant way to bring the world to children. Humanity and kindness at it’s best, in an everyday situation.

That’s what Mister Rogers did.

He saw the inside of everyone, not the outside.

Fred Rogers was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award bestowed by the President of the United States. He received the coveted Peabody Award.  The Smithsonian Institution displays his trademark sweater.

Mister Rogers list of accomplishments is a long list, yet to him (and me) his most important  accomplishments aren’t on those lists.  They’re what he did everyday with children.  He has a lot to say about that.

Stayed tuned for Part 2, and the words of Mister Rogers himself.


Posted in Diversity, Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Inspiration, Kindness, Learning About the World, Love, self esteem, Teaching young children | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Who Are Some of Your Favorite Fantasy Writers?

I often tell Dr. Charles French that he will eventually get the children I teach, or that I have prepared his students. You see, while I teach preschool and he teaches college, we actually teach the same thing – that literature is the greatest teacher. We both read to our students with passion, and follow the many trails that books blaze along the way. I know that my students will come to read Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, because I have read to them Charlotte’s Web and The Story of Doctor Doolittle. Fantasy is imagination, and also inspiration. For me and for Dr. Charles French, it is our greatest teaching tool. We are as excited as our students! Thank you, Charles. Keep reading great literature to your students. I will, too.

charles french words reading and writing

I thought I would continue this series on favorite writers by asking specifically about Fantasy today. I have addressed Speculative and Science-fiction writers, but now let us consider those we love reading in Fantasy.

Here is a brief list of some of my favorites:



J. R. R. Tolkien and The Lord Of The Rings



J. K. Rowling  The Harry Potter Series



Ray Bradbury Something Wicked This Way Comes

These writers are only a few of many possible whom I might have listed.

So, I ask you: who are some of your favorite fantasy writers?

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The Importance of Reading Chapter Books by guest blogger Jennie

I am featured as Darlene Foster’s guest blogger, writing about the importance of reading chapter books. Thank you, Darlene!

Darlene Foster's Blog

I follow the blog of pre-school teacher Jennie Fitkzee at A Teacher’s Reflections. Jennie is an amazing teacher who truly loves her job and shares her 30-year teaching experiences with her readers. In some of her posts, she talks about the importance of reading out loud and of reading chapter books to children who cannot yet read. Here is some of what she has to say.

Jennie and her students with a favourite chapter book

The Importance of Reading Chapter Books by Jennie

In order to read, and more importantly to want to read, it all starts with parents and family reading aloud to children, every day. The statistics on reading aloud and its link to academic success in all areas is profound. If reading is a pleasurable experience, then school work is by far easier. Every child begins school wanting to learn to read. In other words, we’ve…

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Happy Presidents Day



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Talking Death and Dying with Children – Part 3

In Part 2, I talked about the dreaded “D” words – death and dying – that teachers and parents fear.  I introduced a gentle and friendly book, City Dog, Country Frog by Mo Willems, that may be helpful in starting a dialogue with children.  Ask.  Listen.  Answer.  Talk.  And read aloud.

Part 3
Death is really the grand finale to the circle of life.  It encompasses all we experience; friendship, sadness, love, fear, joy… it is a fitting end to the memories of living.  One book that gives the greatest tribute to life, death, and everything in between is Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White.  It is my #1 read-aloud every school year.

When I finish reading our first chapter book of the school year, Charlotte’s Web, children are engrossed in this book because it is a story about the heart – and my most important job is educating the heart.  As such, they begin to understand the depth of true feelings.  Charlotte the spider died.  That opens the door for questions, and some of those questions are in the form of silence.  That’s when I put down the book and talk with the children, and listen.

Death isn’t an easy topic with children.  Addressing death and dying with young children, and with their families, is typically not part of a teacher’s curriculum, or even part of the books and stories they read.  When Charlotte died, here is what I wrote home to the children’s families:

Yesterday we finished our first chapter book of the year, Charlotte’s Web. It is a wonderful story, and your children loved it. Chapter reading is one of the favorite times of the day because children are captivated by words alone. Those words make the pictures in their heads, and those words make their minds think and their hearts feel. That is the power of reading aloud.

“Can’t you just read more?” is what children ask when we stop reading. That means they are listening and comprehending. Chapter reading is a bridge from understanding a book to feeling a book. That’s a big step for children. In Charlotte’s Web, Wilbur the pig makes his best friend with Charlotte the spider, yet he suffers through sadness and loneliness. Charlotte the spider dies at the end, as all spiders do. These facts are part of the story, yet are vastly overshadowed by the storyline itself. That is why a good book imparts a tremendous opportunity for learning.

Death and dying happens, and when it can be introduced to children in this way, it can better give them tools of understanding. It can also be a soft step to real events in a child’s life. When a grandparent dies, or even when a classroom pet dies, perhaps Charlotte’s Web gave a child understanding and compassion. Did we talk about Charlotte when we read the book? Of course we did; not only her death, but her children (all five hundred and fourteen), and the words she wrote in her web. And, we will continue to talk. Often children bring up questions months later, and we listen and answer.

My co-teacher and I have a wonderful dialogue when we finish a book. I become very sad and a little teary. She asks, “What’s the matter, Jennie?” I reply, “The book is over. I don’t like that! It was so good. I’m really very sad.” She perks up and says, “But we get to read another new chapter book.” I reply, “Really? When?” She says in a big voice, “Tomorrow!”

That’s our circle of chapter reading, much like the circle of life.

When I first started teaching, our school’s director always stressed the importance of teaching families.  She understood that in order to educate the child you also need to guide parents and families.  She was emphatic about sending newsletters home, and adding one paragraph that would teach something to families.  She was right.  She also felt that educating children and families about death and dying was important.  Gulp!  For many teachers that was an uncomfortable topic to address.

A few years later our beloved classroom guinea pig, Elliott, died unexpectedly.  I was devastated.  First I knew I had to tell the children, then I knew I had to tell their families.  That was my diving board, and I put my fingers to the keyboard and wrote.  I talked about letting children ask questions and giving them an opportunity to say goodbye.  I talked about being honest.  I talked about how perhaps experiencing the death of a pet can help make the death of a loved one down the road a little easier.  The words flowed.

Over the years there have been many classroom pets who have died, and many stories and books about death.  I listen.  I ask questions.  Children always have a voice.  Chapter reading really is much like the circle of life.  I am educating the heart.


Posted in Book Review, books, chapter reading, Death and dying, E.B. White, Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Love, reading aloud, reading aloud, Teaching young children, wonder | Tagged , , , , , , , | 47 Comments


I didn't have my glasses on....

“if you see with innocent eyes, everything is divine.”

-federico fellini

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Happy Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Love, Jennie

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