The Touching Reason Mister Rogers Narrated His Goldfish Feedings

Those of a certain generation — or parents who raised a child of a certain generation, for that matter — think fondly of the PBS children's show "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," on the air in the United States from 1968 through 2001, according to IMDb. On top of the important and positive messages that the show imparted to young and old alike, what made the series so beloved was the show's host, Fred Rogers, with his calming presence and the little rituals he performed every episode, such as when he changed his shoes in the opening sequence or fed his fish on camera.

While doing so, Rogers narrated the fish-feeding process and spoke out loud every step that he took along the way. And as the TV star revealed in the book "Dear Mister Rogers, Does it Ever Rain in Your Neighborhood?," a 1996 collection of letters that Rogers received from children who watched his show, he did so for a very sweet reason.

Fred Rogers spoke often about the importance of friendship and compassion

That Fred Rogers showed extra care while feeding his fish, and took the time to model his behavior through words, is in keeping with one of the most prominent themes of his program: compassion, combined with a willingness to meet children at their level. For example, Rogers took the time to help children overcome the common childhood fear of bathtub drains, as "Today" notes. Rogers, who was also an accomplished pianist and composer, wrote and performed a song on the show titled "You Can Never Go Down the Drain."

In other instances, he took on larger societal issues, such as race relations and Civil Rights, which were still controversial topics on children's TV when the show premiered in 1968. As "Today" goes on to report, the first recurring Black character on a children's show, in fact, was Officer Clemmons on ​​"Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," played by Francois Clemmons. This tone of compassion and mutual respect fostered by Rogers was at no time more clear than when he received a letter from a 5-year-old fan who was concerned that Mister Rogers' fish might miss their feeding.

His young fan was blind

According to Rogers' 1996 collection of letters received from viewers, "Dear Mister Rogers," the TV host received a letter from a fan named Katie, who was 5 at the time. She requested he mention feeding his fish in every episode because she could not see him do it, and otherwise, she'd worry they weren't getting fed. As the book also relates, the father of the young girl added a note to her letter, stating his daughter was blind and therefore couldn't see Rogers feed the fish on the screen.

From that point forward, Rogers mentioned every time he fed his fish. According to Upworthy, the host even mentioned in one episode in particular that should he ever forget to feed the fish, he'd come back and make sure they were taken care of. At that point, he summed up nicely the entire message of his show: "It's good to know that fish and animals and children are taken care of by those who can, isn't it?"