I would like to tell you about an exciting event.
In the Fall of 1997, Mr. Fred Rogers and his film crew came to visit me in my studio. They taped a 10-minute segment for the Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood Program No. 1721. I showed him how I paint my tissue papers and how I use them to create an illustration. Then together we read from my book From Head To Toe.
Parents and teachers often ask what I think about children watching too much television. Yes, I believe that children do watch too much television, but I think the most important thing that we must be concerned about is the quality of the programs. Maybe it’s not that children watch too much television, but that they watch bad television. Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood is an example of good television.
Mr. Rogers and I are the same age and we have each been doing our work for children for 30 years. I’ve been aware of him for a long time and I am impressed with the depth of his work. I think he and I try to do the same thing, which is to take a subject we consider important and explore it with our audiences and readers. We don’t tell children, we let them discover for themselves. Mr. Rogers works quietly and respectfully. He understands children and he is able to make himself understood.
Watching him work reminds me of a quotation by Leonardo da Vinci from his “Notebooks.” It is about simplifying: “The more minutely you describe, the more you will confuse the mind of the reader and the more you will prevent him from a knowledge of the thing described.”
The show first aired on February 16th, 1998. If you missed the original broadcast earlier in the year, then you’ll have another chance to see it December 21, 1998. Check your local PBS listings for the broadcast time.