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The notion that charity begins at home has never been easier to teach children than with this enchanting gift set based on the Jewish tradition of tzadakah, in which children save coins in banks for the less fortunate. Added inspiration for contributing to worthy causes comes from Emmy Award-winning television personality Mister Rogers, whose peaceful "neighborhood" has been a comforting presence in millions of homes for more than 25 years.In the book that accompanies THE GIVING BOX, Mister Rogers teaches lessons...
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The notion that charity begins at home has never been easier to teach children than with this enchanting gift set based on the Jewish tradition of tzadakah, in which children save coins in banks for the less fortunate. Added inspiration for contributing to worthy causes comes from Emmy Award-winning television personality Mister Rogers, whose peaceful "neighborhood" has been a comforting presence in millions of homes for more than 25 years.In the book that accompanies THE GIVING BOX, Mister Rogers teaches lessons of generosity and charity through heartwarming fictional stories set in countries around the world. For children, he describes how good it feels to give to those less fortunate, and reveals how even one child's contribution can make a difference. For parents, he offers wise suggestions and practical guidelines on teaching children the moral lesson of compassion for others and the value of charity.
"Neighbors are people who care about each other. It's such a good feeling to know that you can give and receive help!"
Jamie Levine of Barnes&Noble.com spoke to Fred Rogers and found out more about The Giving Box -- and the man behind this marvelous project.
Barnes & Noble.com: Why do you think you have such a profound effect on children? How do you know so well what kids need to hear?
Fred Rogers: I think children can spot a phony a mile away. Just like the rest of us, I think they long to be in touch with honesty. And I think they sense that Mister Rogers' Neighborhood isn't a show. In fact we never use the word "show" to describe the Neighborhood. Whenever we talk about it or write about it, we refer to it as "the program" or "a television visit." It's always been a kind of offering. Like here's a neighbor...here's an uncle...here's a grandfather who lives a couple of doors away. You're welcome to visit for half an hour each day with this person who tries to understand children and offers what he thinks might be not only interesting but enlightening.
B&N.com: You do so much on TV to help strengthen a child's sense of self-esteem. How was your self-esteem as a child? What was your childhood like?
FR: My Grandfather McFeely was an important part of it. I was named for him, so I have a feeling he was nuts about me! (My name is Fred McFeely Rogers, and his name was Fred Brooks McFeely -- he was my mother's father.) Anyhow, we would go out to visit him on his farm every Sunday. He would take me for walks at his place and invariably, when we would leave, he would say something like, "You've made this day a special day for me," or "There's only one person in the whole world like you." Well, I happened to be his only grandchild for 11 years, until my sister was adopted, so that first decade was a mighty special time for me.
I'll also never forget visiting my grandfather when he was in a nursing home, near the end of his life, and I was working in New York as a floor manager at NBC, floor-managing a program that he just loved. It was called The Kate Smith Hour, and it was on every day from four to five. Evidently, whenever that program would come on, he would tell the nurses, or whoever was there, "My grandson does that program." He was very proud of me.
B&N.com: In The Giving Box, you say, "Being a giver grows out of the experience of having been a receiver." What do you mean by that?
FR: I just think they go hand in hand. And it starts so early. The roots of giving and receiving start when a child is even younger than two years old. What they offer and the way it is received will be with them always. And it's your own spirit in receiving them that matters. I don't think that there's any need to fake it. Because there are plenty of things that you'll be very happy to receive. And if a child should offer you something that's just kind of messy, that they obviously didn't care about making, no big deal should be made about that. But if you understand your child well, you'll know what effort went into making something for you.
There's a story in my book that's a really good example. [A man's five-year-old son, Kevin, made a crude-looking pencil holder for him to put on his desk at the office, but the father just left this gift where he had opened it. It wasn't until Kevin's teacher told the father how much work the boy had put into making the gift -- and how he had told all the other kids he was making it for his dad's office -- that the father realized the gift was "much more than a place to put pencils. It was a container filled with his son's love."] That man really didn't know the investment his son had made in that gift. But for instance, my 11-year-old grandson loves models. There's a great big pool table in his basement covered with a sheet, and he's made an entire village out of that table. He takes me to the basement when I come by, and I delight in it. And he knows that I do. I don't have to fake it. As I said before, I think children can spot whether you're "putting on" or not, and I frankly delight in him -- and his creativity.
B&N.com: What is the greatest lesson you've learned from a child -- or from children, in general?
FR: I remember a child asking, "What do you do with the mad that you feel when you feel so mad you could bite?" And I thought about that a long time and I wrote the song, "What do you do with the mad that you feel?" right from that young boy's quote/question. That was very helpful because it was obvious that he wanted to know how grown-ups deal with their anger. Frankly, I really believe that's one of the greatest gifts that we can give to the next generation: helping them to see that there are ways of expressing strong feelings that do not hurt you or anyone else. I just wish the world could know that the sensation of being angry is certainly fine -- it's what we do with it that makes it positive or negative. There have been a lot of people who have used disappointment and anger to make really wonderful creations. And it didn't hurt them or anybody else. What I think is our place in the media is to highlight those times when this happens. These days, if kids get the idea that they want to have a place in the evening news, they think the only way to do it is to do something destructive. We really need to find the kids who are doing their best to do stuff that's important and is also very positive. Because 99 percent of the kids are doing that and we need to support them; and of course, that's what we do all the time on the Neighborhood.
B&N.com: How is the Mr. Rogers we know from TV different from the real Fred Rogers?
FR: When someone asks my wife, "What's he really like?" she always says, "Well, what you see is what you get."
B&N.com: Can you name a few of your favorite children's books?
FR: I always liked The Little Prince -- it's for people of all ages -- the more you grow, the more it means to you. And that's true of any classic. Did you ever read The Secret Garden? I remember that book so well. And of course, the books of Eric Carle. I know Eric Carle and Marc Brown very well. I also knew Ezra Jack Keats. Pick what you want -- I like their work -- I think they all understand childhood.
I remember walking down the street in Northampton, Massachusetts, with Eric [Carle], and he could remember vividly things that he and his father did together when he was a little boy. To not lose your own childhood is such an important thing. And one of the things that pleases me most about the longevity of the Neighborhood is that adults now are offering what meant so much to them as children to their own children. And as they sit and watch the Neighborhood with their children, some of their feelings from their own childhood come to them as they watch. And the development of empathy by being able to do that is a great gift to the next generation. There aren't that many things that you're able to do that with -- except books.
B&N.com: The Giving Box is such a fabulous project. Is there anything else you'd like to tell us about it?
FR: One more thing, I think I mentioned it in the book: My mother was a great volunteer. She had more volunteer hours in the preemie nursery at Latrobe Hospital than any person in history. She was a great nurse's aide. She also was head of the surgical dressing unit for our part of Pennsylvania during the Second World War. That's the kind of person she was. At any rate, when I was young, whenever we would hear bad news, or hear about some accident, she would always say, "Look for the helpers. You will always find someone, somewhere, who is trying to help." And when my kids were very young and there would be a television program on, or the news would come on, she would say that to Jay and John: "Look for the helpers." And invariably, they would find, over to the side, an ambulance or somebody helping. And I thought, "What a fabulous philosophy." When you think about The Giving Box, you don't have to look far for the helpers. I think Mother would be very pleased with this little project.
Posted April 12, 2001
I think this is one of the most well conceived ideas for children in a long time. It's a truly thoughtful gift that involves kids in an activity (philanthropy) that takes them outside their normally closed and fairly self-centered worlds. I gave it to each of my nieces and nephews last Christmas, and they have all been excited to choose charities they believe in and save spare change for them. I believe it has helped lead them down a path of lifelong empathy, understanding, and GIVING. Bravo, Mister Rogers!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 9, 2000
I just picked up this little gift set for my 6 year old niece. Her mother told me that she grew up watching Mr. Rogers and couldn't believe that after all these years, he's still able to teach her children great values. My niece is learning so much about how to be a nice person to everyone and I hope that she will be able to use the other lessons as she gets older.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.