ABC’s “World News with Diane Sawyer” runs a “Person of the Week” piece each Friday evening. Their most recent honoree was Esperanza Spalding, a young jazz musician who captured the “Artist of the Year” award during the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards.
Their story shared a bit about Spalding’s background — noting that her decision to make music came at the tender age of five after she saw and heard cellist Yo-Yo Ma perform on the PBS television show “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”
It reminded me at first of watching Yo-Yo Ma receive our nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, earlier in the week. He looked like a kid who arrived at school one day only to discover it had been transformed into a giant candy factory.
But then I remembered an e-mail that recently came my way — about a PBS television show titled “Martha Speaks.”
It features a talking dog named Martha who’ll be introducing young viewers (and their cats) to a wonderful thing called arts and culture this week (Feb 21-25).
The show is based on the works of New Jersey author and illustrator Susan Meddaugh, for whom “Martha” was once a family pet (of the non-verbal variety).
Apparently Martha has something to say about all sorts of art-related topics – from theater and classical music to Greek myths and opera. I’m all for it, since the show also promotes language development and other skills children will need one day as they journey through a world where myths abound.
The show’s stated “educational goal” is teaching new words to children ages 4 to 7. This is a great relief to those of us who’ve tired of hearing children utter unsavory words gleaned from older sibs or even prime time television offerings.
There are, of course, other means for expanding one’s vocabulary.
Just this evening I learned from a television talk show host that “paralepsis” refers to a rhetorical strategy of raising a point by appearing to pass over it.
Can’t wait to hear Martha use that one in a sentence.
I’m utterly convinced that children learn language best by interacting with others who use language. The “Talking Elmo” doll is a fine start, but word play is really the purview of parents.
I’m glad there’s public television, offering tools for parents and teachers who do society’s most imporant work — assuring literacy for future generations.
Note: Click here to learn more about the many fun and fascinating characters of “Martha Speaks.”
Coming up: Abe Lincoln meets modern dance