March 21, 2012

Handy Manny

Handy Manny
Series created by Roger Bollen, Marilyn Sadler and Rick Gitelson
Disney Junior TV Series / DVD
2-4 Preschool Primary

With the rise of cultural awareness and immersion programs in schools, there is a need in children's programming that has never existed before. It is no longer enough that a series teach a love of language or the joys of science. We now need shows that support bilingual education and Spanish / English bilingualism. Handy Manny, which airs on Disney Junior, does just that, while modeling kindness, acceptance and the art of being a good neighbor and friend.

Each 30 minute episode of Handy Manny features two stories revolving around the need to fix a broken item. Enter Handy Manny, a bilingual handyman and his anthropomorphic tools. The tools, which range in character from Pat, the well-meaning hammer, to the sarcastic, insecure screwdriver, Turner, fill decidedly child-like roles, each with their strengths and quirks. Though the tools and Manny speak to each other primarily in English, they are all bilingual, as evidenced in the frequent manner in which Spanish phrases are interleaved with English. For example, someone will ask a question like "where are you going?" and the response will come in both Spanish and English - "vamos a la tienda - we're going to the store". This happens repeatedly throughout each episode, reinforcing vocabulary development and language acquisition in both Spanish and English. Given that the target audience is young enough to absorb languages holistically, the approach is an effective introduction to Spanish, and a great support to Spanish language immersion programs.

As a protagonist, Manny is a kind and patient role model willing to go out of his way to help his neighbors without compromising his integrity. The overall effect is one of acceptance and diversity. Paired with the show's bilingualism and the language acquisition it supports, the social aspects of this preschoolers' show model behaviors that support cultural diversity and acceptance in its young viewers, all while laying the foundation for the linguistic skills its audience will need to apply these lessons in real life.

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