"We think kids and families need an alternative to what is currently available on the radio" all day, says Larry Berger, whose SLB Radio Productions, Inc. produces the long-running Saturday Light Brigade each week. "There really is not a PBS-type approach or a Saturday Light Brigade-type approach that engages children and adults in a way that is fun to listen to, that is educational and informative."
That's why Berger and Jennifer Stancil, WQED's executive director of educational partnerships, will be co-directing a newly announced collaborative effort called iQ Kids Radio
, which aims to eventually offer 24 hours of innovative, family-oriented kids' radio programming.
Right now it's an idea whose time has come, says Berger -- and an idea that was chosen this week as the local Junior League's signature project for the next three years. That comes with a $45,000 grant and, even more importantly, Berger says, the expertise and volunteer energy of the several hundred women who are members of League chapter.
Stancil says iQ Kids Radio content will first concentrate on building from the Saturday Light Brigade to fill an entire Saturday of programming, since that's when parents are listening with their kids most often. The collaborative’s early ideas for programming feature storytelling, language lessons, music and children's literature, kitchen chemistry and other areas that attract both kids and parents and help children become successful.
One idea is to adapt PBS television content for the radio, since much of its kids' programming centers on music and songs anyway. "We ask ourselves on a daily basis," she says, "are we maximizing the content we get from PBS to help kids prepare for kindergarten and for life?"
"There's a legacy of high-quality programs," notes Berger. "That really would make a lot of sense listening with your family as you drive, or listening on a smart phone." iQ Kids Radio may end up as an app that families can subscribe to, as a traditional radio service supported by underwriting, or as "something they haven't even thought of yet," he says.
The task, says Stancil, is to figure out what innovative children's radio sounds like and to get it into schools, museums and other venues, as well as homes. In surveys, she adds, WQED has found that parents are particularly uncomfortable picking educational media for their kids. WQED and SLB hope the new iQ Kids Radio puts them, together, in the perfect position to help.
Connect with others via Pittsburgh's Kids+Creativity Network
, formulate ideas for iQ Kids Radio, and let WQED or SLB know your best ideas.
Writer: Marty Levine
Sources: Larry Berger, SLB Radio, and Jennifer Stancil, WQED