by Mason Johnson
“Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” and its lessons are ingrained in the hearts of multiple generations of Americans. One Chicago cartoonist is helping to preserve Fred Rogers’ legacy — and those lessons — with a beautiful book.
“Let Some Word That Is Heard Be Yours” isn’t simply a biography of Fred Rogers and his contributions to children’s television and mental health. Through author Alex Nall’s experiences as a teacher, we see a direct example of the lessons “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” have passed on.Nall is raising funds for the book on Indiegogo, writing that his book “showcases scenes from Rogers’ childhood and teenage years, up to the turning point in 1968 when he created ‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood’ for PBS. The book also continues to show scenes of my life as an early-educator and how the lessons Mister Rogers’ taught over thirty years ago are still relevant in and out of the the classroom today.”
Recognizable highlights from Rogers’ life are featured in the book, including his passionate defense of public broadcasting funding before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Communications in 1969. Other highlights, like Mr. Rogers’ song “What Do You Do With The Mad You Feel,” are paralleled with Nall’s own experiences with children.
Nall explained that the idea for the book came out of his own personal exploration of “Mister Rogers’ neighborhood.”
“I recently started watching various episodes of the Neighborhood as a way to fight some of the anxieties I was facing at work as well as relieve any shortcomings I had as an educator,” Nall said. “Soon, I became interested in finding out more about how Rogers became the persona many people regard today.”Other parts of the book bring to focus lesser-known aspects of Rogers’ life. In some panels, we see Rogers as a young boy being bullied because of his size. Other pages show George, an African American teenager Rogers’ parents adopted who would go on to be a positive influence for a young, lonely Fred Rogers. These experiences help give insight into the intentions of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”
“Rogers fascinated me because of how genuine he appeared to be on his show. There didn’t seem to be any separation between the man who zipped up the sweater on his show and the man who came up with the scripts, songs, and puppets off of the screen,” Alex told me. “… I found that comparing his story to my own (as a non-traditional educator) was useful in analyzing different methods of teaching, what works, what doesn’t, and what in the end, made both Rogers and myself continue working in our respective fields.”
Nall is attempting to raise $2,000 to fund the 50-page book, with his Indiegogo campaign currently sitting at $850. The intention is to have the book ready by June, and while people can donate as little as they want, those who donate $25 will essentially be preordering “Let Some Word That Is Heard Be Yours.”
If you donate $108, you may receive a painting by Mike Freiheit of Rogers with his number one fan: Koko the gorilla.
You can donate to “Let Some Word That Is Heard Be Yours” here.