Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by stella from Georgetown. stella Wonders, “Who was Mr. Rogers” Thanks for WONDERing with us, stella!

He was a puppeteer. A television personality. A pianist, a minister, and an educator. Perhaps most of all, he was a good neighbor. That’s right—today, we’re learning about Mister Rogers!

Fred Rogers was born on March 20, 1923, in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. From an early age, his parents taught him the importance of family and community. They also instilled in him a love of service and religion.

Rogers started playing the piano at age five. He showed early talent on the instrument and kept playing for the rest of his life. At age 11, his parents adopted a baby and he gained a younger sister. However, his childhood wasn’t always happy and carefree. At school, Rogers faced bullying from his peers. This experience later shaped the empathy he showed toward children as the host of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

After high school, Rogers attended Dartmouth but soon moved to Rollins College. There, he met his future wife, Joanne. They both studied music and played piano. Rogers graduated in 1951 with a degree in music. 

How did Fred Rogers get started in television? He first became interested in his future career while at home on break from college. He watched children’s programming with his family and found himself disappointed. He felt that TV had the ability to make a huge difference in the lives of children. However, he didn’t think the shows of the time were living up to that potential.

In the early 1950s, Rogers took a job at WQED, a public television station in Pittsburgh. There, he worked behind the scenes on “The Children’s Corner.” He wrote music, built puppets, and helped develop the plot of the show. This is also when Rogers began to study education and child development. Both would help shape his work on television.

In the 1960s, Rogers moved to Canada. There, he hosted a show called “Misterogers.” Later, he and Joanne moved back to Pittsburgh with their two young sons, James and John. In 1968, “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” premiered on public television.

It didn’t take long for Mister Rogers to become a household name. The show featured loveable characters like Henrietta, Daniel Tiger, and King Friday XIII. In each episode, Rogers wore a sweater made by his mother. He also wore sneakers that helped him move quickly from any part of the set to his piano. There, Rogers drew on his background in music to write the songs for the show.

Mister Rogers held a special place in the hearts of many people. His show was not just educational—it helped children learn how to handle difficult emotions and treat others with respect. Mister Rogers encouraged each and every person to be truly themselves.

“Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” aired for 31 seasons. It ended in 2001 after 895 episodes. A study done by Yale University found that viewers of the show retained more of the storyline than those who watched “Sesame Street.” It also found that they had more patience, a trait Mister Rogers taught was a virtue.

Fred Rogers passed away on February 27, 2003. He had stomach cancer. Today, he’s remembered for his support of public television and children’s education. His story has been told in films like 2018’s “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” and 2019’s “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.” 

Rogers once said, “The greatest gift you ever give is your honest self.” We hope all our Wonder Friends agree! How do you strive to be your honest self every day?

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