One of the best parts about having a kidlet is having the legitimate excuse to immerse myself in kids’ stuff, to which I have admitted an addiction. I think back on summers in Gulfport Mississippi, where my parents’ office was located across the street from the very glamorous (really!) Gulfport-Harrison Library. I would spend hour upon hour reading every book in the children’s section, proudly watching the librarian make a new hashmark by my name each time I reported to her that I had read another. The books would take my mind near and far, teach and entertain me, and broadened my mind to wanting to learn more.
The love of reading and learning was also supported by shows on PBS like the Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, The Electric Company, and Sesame Street – even though it was television programming, the number one theme was that if you can read you can learn, and if you can learn, anything is possible. The more things change the more they remain the same. Now I have a preschooler embarking on the summer before kindergarten. I want him to read, to learn, and to enjoy it the way I always have. He has lots of wonderful books and tons of cool online resources to help me teach him.
As a PBS Kids VIP I attended the PBS Annual Meeting last month and was thrilled to be able to preview the newest program called Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. I was whisked from LAX to Denver for a whirlwind trip where I was also able to gather with folks from PBS Kids / PBS, meet the other PBS Kids VIPs, and get another visit with my kids’ TV idol Angela Santomero. Angela promised that Daniel Tiger, the “child” of the Fred Rogers Company and PBS Kids has enough lovey-love and cuteness to melt the coldest heart, and will also teach preschoolers how to cope with emotions and have empathy for others. It really was inspiring to be able to see her speak to a huge crowd of people who grew up with Mister Rogers Neighborhood who were all excited to see how the themes from our beloved “neighbor’s” lessons would translate to the new millennium. The trolley, red sweater, sneakers, the Land of Make Believe, and the sweet characters are all still there, but this time all in animated form, since there is no way to replace Mr R. The real Mrs. Rogers was there too, and I got to give her a hug and tell her how my son watches Mister Rogers just like I did and how happy I am about the new series.
There’s a reason PBS Kids programming survives and thrives after all these years. It’s still made by people whose mission is to change lives, one house at a time, and that everyone can afford to watch – it’s still public and reaches 99% of all homes. I left Denver energized, looking forward to seeing Daniel again on Labor Day, and ready to host a little summer kick off party of my own, with the help of PBS Kids, iVillage, and Scholastic. Last Friday I had a Summer Reading Party at the Critter’s preschool support literacy through the iVillage PBS Kids Summer Reading Community Challenge. We read books, colored printable pages, took fun photos, and watched PBS Kids programming. All good Beverly Hills events end with a goody bag, and this was no exception – the wee ones took home discount coupons, notebooks, bookmarks, tatoos, sticker sheets, activity story sheets, and reading charts that parents can use to encourage reading all summer.