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Radio show gives kids a voice, helping them work through their feelings and connect with friends.
Radio show gives kids a voice, helping them work through their feelings and connect with friends. Photo: Evie Ruddy

Tune in: Community radio program gives new voice to children during pandemic

By University Advancement and Communications Posted: June 10, 2020 3:00 a.m.


With the help of technology and social media, adults have been able to adapt, more or less, to the pandemic, by working remotely and staying connected with friends and family. But imagine being a three-year-old kiddo who, in the blink of an eye, is no longer able to attend preschool, participate in sports clubs, go to the library or hit the splash park with friends. And it’s almost summer, for goodness sake! 

“Kids understand what’s been taken away from them,” said Dr. Charity Marsh, Professor of Creative Technologies in the U of R’s Faculty of Media, Art, and Performance, “but it’s difficult for them to understand why. As a kid, how can you be rational about this weird virus that you can’t see?!”

06-103.jpg

We are family! Marsh and her family
put together a weekly kids radio
show to support and entertain
families at home during the pandemic.

(From back left: Evie Ruddy,
Charity Marsh, and Aksel. Front: Ilse)

Over the past two months, Marsh and her family have been creating a one-hour weekly radio show for CJTR 91.3, a community radio station in Regina that started a whole new children’s program called Imagine This! in March to help support and entertain families staying home during COVID-19.

Making a radio show with an almost-four-year-old and a six-year-old is anything but easy. “It can be very frustrating, and not everyone’s in sync when you go to do things like read a story,” says Marsh, estimating that each show takes about 10 hours to create from start to finish. “Sometimes somebody has a meltdown, but the show is about reality – this is life, this is what we’re doing right now.”

Marsh, former Tier II Canada Research Chair in Interactive Media and Popular Music, is one of several Regina parents working with their children to create content for CJTR’s music program, Imagine This Music! The show is geared towards kids, weaving together storytelling, music, and conversation between Marsh, her partner Evie, and her two kiddos. Each sneeze, giggle or interjection by the kids builds a sense of interactivity and connection between young listeners and what they’re hearing.

“There’s a sense that something’s alive; that they’re listening to real people doing something real in this moment,” explains Marsh, as she describes her own children’s reactions when they listen to the completed show. “They’ll engage and talk back to the radio. It helps them to make stronger connections, to foster community.”

Marsh’s kids Aksel and Ilse have a say in deciding the weekly theme for the show, which might be about fun activities you can do at home, kindness, fear, bike riding or gratitude, and suggest their favourite songs to play. The radio show is also a platform for discussing important social issues, such as standing up against racism, living as a Queer family, and celebrating Pride Month.

“There’s so much more freedom on community radio to have diverse voices, stories, music, and art that we wouldn’t get elsewhere,” stresses Marsh. “As a Queer family, we talk about our lives, our experiences, things we recognize ourselves in. So, last week we started to talk about Pride, which we celebrate throughout June, and the rainbow, and what it means to be transgender.” 

“Community radio opens up these very important conversations,” says Marsh. “The stories the kiddos tell are powerful. Maybe there are families listening that aren’t Queer who now have this content and can start having these conversations. Through radio we can help to move these conversations into the mainstream, making it part of the norm.”

In the first few weeks of the program, Marsh had a number of parents contacting her to say that they had listened to the show and that their children were excited to hear the kids’ voices.

“CJTR programming is significant because it brings together a whole bunch of different voices,” stresses Marsh. “You can connect; you can hear other children and their voices, which is key, especially because we have been missing hearing those voices on the playground and on the streets with the social distancing restrictions.” 

06-102.jpg

Aksel helps to choose the
weekly show theme and do
some interviewing of her own.

Marsh’s door bangs open as Aksel enters the room, looking for her mother’s support in a dispute with her older sister over the TV, before climbing up onto her lap.

“All I can think about is this kids radio program,” says Marsh. “I’m at home with two kids and I’m working remotely. My life is really tied to their needs, their schedule, their emotional world.”

As a community-based researcher, it’s not uncommon for the realities of home life to inspire and inform her research interests and teaching.

“I’m thinking of our radio show as living heritage – heritage that is not only tied to the past but also to how we’re creating and thinking about narratives happening in the every day,” says Marsh. “When we look back at this time 5 or 20 years from now, we will have this archive of moments about how people came together, and tried to connect and support each other within all the restrictions of social distancing and isolation. It’s grounded me in a way that’s important as a researcher, and it is such a gift from CJTR to help support people and children.”

On June 24 from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m., Dr. Marsh will be giving a virtual talk on the radio show titled “Imagine This! Reflections on Community Radio Programming for Kids during the COVID Pandemic” as part of the Living Heritage in Saskatchewan series. For more information and to register, visit here.  

Listen to Imagine This Music! on CJTR on Wednesday June 24, 11:00 a.m. – noon.  Shows aired previously will be available on CJTR’s new interactive website, which will be launched later this month. 

Check out #UofReginaCares for more stories about U of R students, alumni, faculty, and staff who are using their ingenuity, resolve, and hearts to care for our community during these challenging times.