I recently watched the celebratory documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor about Fred Rogers, aka Mr. Rogers. Among many thoughtful commentaries about the man himself emerged his profound appreciation of silence when giving children time to think and express themselves. Restating their fears and frustrations, he could then direct them to ways for them to take control of situations and make wise decisions to help themselves and others.

Studies have shown that poor readers were more likely to consider themselves as angry, distractible, sad, lonely, and unpopular. And it is cyclical; reading failure then contributes to socio-emotional maladjustment during childhood.

I thought of a first grader whom I know whose anger and oppositional behaviors disrupt his learning. I sense he feels that he often is not in control of situations and his outbreaks are his way of feeling on top.

I shared the lyrics to “What Do You Do with the Mad that You Feel?” (https://pbskids.org/rogers/songLyricsWhatDoYouDo.html) with him and then asked him to use a highlighter pen to show which words indicate what he could do to control situations. Now he keeps a copy of this poem in his folder to remind him of what positive action he can take whenever he feels frustrated or angry.

For more ideas, games, poems, and videos from Mr. Rogers visit https://pbskids.org/rogers/index.html.

Fearful images in computer games and television bombard children daily with images of meanness, bullying, and violence. Mr. Rogers reminds us that even though the outside world of kids has changed, their inside world has not, and as parents and educators we can help them address these issues.