The Children’s Hour: Any Time, Anywhere
Radio show created in Albuquerque is now carried on airwaves across the country and beyond.
When Katie Stone created The Children’s Hour radio show, an award-winning Saturday morning staple on KUNM-FM, she knew kids should be a big part of the show.
Stone became producer and host of the show in 2001 as a volunteer for KUNM, a public radio station broadcast from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. Within six months of taking the helm, she had assembled a “Kids Crew,” an all-ages group of children, including a D.J., who help produce the show each week. Over the years, the kids have been welcomed to help in ways they feel they can best contribute, including serving as co-hosts; conducting interviews; doing book, film and game reviews; and more.
The Kids Crew is perhaps one of the things that make The Children’s Hour show so popular. It also might be because of all the interesting and super-fun content that is featured each week. The show focuses on educational topics such as civics, STEM, culture, music education, literacy, health, history, art and performance, and is delivered in a lively, memorable and engaging manner, which includes kids participating in its creation, plus lots of music!
“I believe public radio should include the public,” Stone said. “In addition to our crew, which helps create the show, kids have always been welcome in the studio, and during COVID, they are always welcome to join us on Zoom.”
The Kids Crew currently has over 30 members, ranging from 4½ to 18 years old. Some have volunteered for as long as 10 years. Today, due to the pandemic, the Kids Crew joins via Zoom. All kids are invited to check out what it’s like to be part of the Kids Crew by emailing Katie@childrenshour.org.
“Working on the Children’s Hour is one of the highlights of my childhood,” said Jena Ritchey, a former Kids Crew member. “Katie Stone gave voice and responsibility to children of all ages. As a 12-year-old, I was given the responsibility of writing scripts, selecting music, interviewing guests and engineering the sound board. I learned to think on my feet, to speak clearly, and I could not have asked for a better way to spend my Saturday mornings as a young person.”
Stone has worked steadfastly over the years to increase the show’s reach. In 2018, she formed a nonprofit to syndicate the show and has found great success at growing its audiences across the United States and beyond. The Children’s Hour, which begins its 21st year in 2022, is now carried on more than 120 radio stations across the United States, as well as internationally on stations in Australia, Canada, Switzerland and the Philippines.
Each week the show features guests — sometimes local or regional guests, such as New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, and sometimes national guests, like Dr. Anthony Fauci, who appeared on the show Jan. 31, 2021. Other notable guests include U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Ziggy Marley, and Raffi, one of the world’s most beloved children’s musicians.
Stone creates a special music playlist for each show. For some shows, a professional educational writer creates a comprehensive learning guide. For the show in which Lujan Grisham was a featured guest, the learning guide included a fact sheet about female governors and information about the tools governors use to run the state. All of this can be found online, along with a podcast of each show.
Upcoming shows include The Best of 2021, featuring the best kids’ music that came out in 2021, including a taste of Grammy nominees, and a showcase of some of the favorite clips from the year. A Children’s Hour Christmas Special, an all-music show that is loaded with holiday music, including new takes on classics from some favorite Kindie musicians, is a great accompaniment for Christmas morning, airing on Dec. 25.
Bullying and kindness will each be a topic for two shows in January of 2022. The anti-bullying nonprofit organization ihollaback! that was formed to take care of communities and end harassment in all forms will be featured in one show. Another show will feature musician Lindsay Munroe. Munroe is a singer/songwriter who writes songs for children and teaches them all about kindness. Her 2020 song I Am Kind won critical praise and a National Parenting Products Award, celebrating excellence in children’s entertainment.
Also in January, the Children’s Hour will welcome Jon Ghahate (Zuni Pueblo) a museum educator from the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center for a show called “Keeping It Real,” which will address issues of cultural appropriation.
During the pandemic, many members of the Kids Crew created a musical called ICKY: A Radio Musical, beginning in the early fall of 2020 and culminating in an epic project documenting this extraordinary moment in history from a child’s point of view. With music set to infectious beats, great sound effects and scoring, ICKY is captivating for children and adults alike. The idea to create this musical was inspired by the desire to engage kids of all ages in conversations about the social and emotional toll of the pandemic. If you are interested in what a radio musical is like, you can listen to ICKY: A Radio Musical here.
Tune in every week to The Children’s Hour! The show airs in Albuquerque at 9 a.m. on Saturdays on KUNM 89.9 FM. Past episodes are also podcast at childrenshour.org. For listeners not in New Mexico, go here to find a station near you.
Jennifer Villela is the principal of V Media, a marketing and public relations company based in Santa Fe, NM.