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New radio service tunes in to children's imaginations

| Friday, Feb. 8, 2013, 9:07 p.m.
Kids visit Larry Berger on the set of 'Saturday Light Brigade' at the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh. SLB Radio Productions
Jennifer Stancil, executive director of educational partnerships at WQED Multimedia. WQED

A new radio service is allowing kids to tell stories to other kids.

WQED has entered into collaboration with the Pittsburgh-based SLB Radio Productions to offer the new iQ Kids Radio, serving families with children age 10 and younger.

The family-friendly, commercial-free streaming radio service, drawing from the assets of WQED, PBS and the award-winning “Saturday Light Brigade” radio show, is under way from midnight Fridays to midnight Saturdays at www.iqkidsradio.org. It is broadcast from the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh.

Its goal is to provide a safe, entertaining and fun way to learn, listen, laugh and more.

“It's really important to offer this. It gives a sense of ownership and pride,” says Larry Berger, founder and host of “Saturday Light Brigade.” “We work with kids in all walks of life. It allows kids to express their true thoughts and feelings. It really honors their ideas and mind and heart. Early experiences like this can stay with them for life.”

“Kids listening to other kids tell stories is amazing. When they hear others kids' voices, they understand they are important,” says Jennifer Stancil, executive director of educational partnerships at WQED Multimedia.

The new station has the ability to showcase their voices, she says. “It is kids telling stories, recipes, language lessons, how to tie their shoes,” she says.

The new iQ Kids Radio has been a shared vision with WQED for about two years, Berger says.

“The notion was the kids really deserved something better in radio and audio programming in terms of music and people who weren't talking down to them or viewing them as consumers,” he says. “These are voices from children who are real, as opposed to hired actors, and really this is an approach that is more educational and fun.”

Stancil says she is “100 percent confident” people will embrace the idea fully.

“We've seen this happening already,” she says. “The feedback is enormously positive and very much about how this is needed.”

Plans are being studied on the most productive ways to offer the programming beyond Pittsburgh.

“While Pittsburgh becomes the pioneers on this, it is an exportable project,” Stancil says. “We're talking to bloggers across the nation and parents across the nation who are asking, ‘When is this on in my city?' ”

Programming is being presented on Saturdays, she says, because “that's when moms and dads are running around with their kids in the car. They can create a mobile experience by plugging in their smart phones or other devices if they are not at home listening to it on their computer.”

However they are accessing it, iQ Kids Radio is encouraging children and adults to “Listen: imaginatively.”

“That embodies what we are doing. Listening allows you to be imaginative in your mind,” Stancil says. “When you listen to a song like ‘Red Balloons' or a story about Madame Curie or one about digging up worms, you are able to use your imagination to envision that, just like you would in reading a book. We want to be a catalyst for kids that way, to stoke their imaginations, light the fire in them.”

Berger believes that in this age of YouTube, “audio still matters.”

“Kids get how audio can unleash their imaginations,” he says.

The Junior League of Pittsburgh is also expressing its belief by providing seed funding for the undertaking.

“It continues our 90-year history of creating high-profile opportunities that enhance children's well-being and inspire their curiosity, as evidence by our founding of the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh and creating children's television programming over the course of 10 years when WQED first went on the air in 1954,” says Christina Johansen, Junior League president.

She says the members are committed to continuing the league's tradition and to ultimately support iQ Kids Radio “as it becomes an institution that Pittsburgh families can rely on and call its own.”

Rex Rutkoski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4664 or rrutkoski@tribweb.com.

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