Now, with my son almost four, he’s aware of what books are. Even though he can’t read the words yet, he’ll grab one and flip its pages. If it’s a picture book with a story that we’ve read to him before, he’ll turn the pages and tell us the story without our reading the words. My wife and I spend a lot of time reading, too, and our son sees that. We bring him to the bookstore, whether it’s our local indie or a big Barnes and Noble, and take him to the kids’ section and he’s starting to look at books himself. Since he can’t read the words he’ll be attracted by the pictures - especially if it’s of something he’s into, like superheroes or Cars 2 characters - and ask if we can get it. Then, after we get home, he asks us to read his new book to him. So, I have to say, I’m very happy. I love books and everything they can do and, so far, my son seems to be grasping that they’re valuable to his father and so they must be valuable all around.
My son’s development into someone who likes books and words took a serendipitous boost last weekend. I was downstairs, while my son and wife were still asleep, catching up on football developments on Fox Soccer Channel’s early morning news program. A little while later, Jude came trudging down the stairs. He ran over, we played hide-and-seek (which consists of him closing and covering his eyes, me asking where’d he go, him removing his hands and yelling “boo!” and the two of us laughing and hugging) and then I made his customary chocolate chip Eggo waffle.
As he was eating, he said that he wanted to watch the “gold king.” I had no idea what that was so I questioned him. Eventually, he said that I could find it in “the white,” referring to our Wii. Immediately, I knew it was something from Netflix, which can be streamed through the Wii. So, we turned it on and started looking. Nothing. I continued to question him for more details but, all of a sudden, he stopped me and told me to scroll back up the menu; not just one row but three. Following that, he hopped off the couch, walked to the television and touched a picture of a boy in a green suit and green mask. Next to him, in big green letters, was SUPER WHY! Honestly, I think he thought it was a “Green Lantern” show of some kind.
When we turned it on, however, it turned out to be a kids’ program that promotes reading and books to kids. The green-masked character is Super Why. His alter ego is Wyatt, Jack’s (from “Jack and the Beanstalk”) younger brother. Wyatt enters a bookshelf and comes out on the other end in a secret fantasy world that’s very much like our world. The only difference is that everyone is a character from a fairy tale, including talking animals. As the show progressed, Wyatt’s baby sister wouldn’t stop crying so it fell upon him and his friends - Red Riding Hood, Princess Pea and a pig (fro, I think, “The Three Little Pigs” who had their homes huffed and puffed by the Big Bad Wolf) - to find a solution. In doing so, they go a secret lair situated in a library and become their superhero selves - Super Why, Little Red, Purple Princess and Alpha Pig.
After an incantation from Purple Princess, a book flies out and from that book their solution is found. They enter the book’s story, find Super Letters along the way that, at the end, form the word that lets them know how to solve the problem in their real world. In this particular episode, they went up the beanstalk -
meeting the book’s Jack and not Super Why’s actual brother who was outside the book - helped put the giant to bed and returned home to put Wyatt’s sister to sleep. Music was the solution of the day.
As they discovered the solution, the four superheroes (I tell you, in any form, my son loves his superheroes) used steps made by letters thanks to Alpha Pig and his ‘power of letters.’Little Red has the power of words, Purple Princess has the power of spelling and Super Why has the power of reading. Also, as they put the giant to bed, they changed a sentence in the story by removing a word and putting in a new one from some clues their super computer gives them. Naturally, the words are all accompanied by pictures that help the young viewer learn them. The characters also talk to the young viewer, engaging them so they stay with it and do indeed learn.
I wasn’t sure if my son was going to like it but, after the episode one was over, he asked for more. Gladly, I obliged. I’m very liberal with what my son watches on television. I grew up watching all sorts of things and I turned out all right. Plus, seeing how he responds to some scenes in some shows, I see that he’s learning things empathy and creative. His response to different kinds of music, for instance, floors me. To a dance beat, he’ll start swaying his hips and such. When it’s something softer, he’ll start moving slower and pull out moves like he’s doing lyrical or interpretive dance. With “Super Why!” however, I am even more permissive. He’s learning letters, being reinforced in the value of books and reading and it’s also just a simply fun and wholesome show.
I looked the show up on IMDB. Sadly, the PBS show only aired in 2007 and 2008. That’s a shame. It’s such a good show. However, thanks to the internet and Netflix and streaming, it can still be watched. So, if you’re a lover of books and want your son or daughter to love them too, or if you just want another option for your young ones to develop their minds and language skills, you’ve got “Super Why!"on you side. Many of you may already know about this show. I didn’t until last Sunday. For some of you, though, this is the first time you’re hearing about it. Check it out. I don’t think you’ll be sorry you.
As for the “gold king,” I still don’t know what my son was talking about.