Audio Drama for Children

Book and headset. Free image via Pixabay.

When I started getting into podcasts, the listening part of it, I sought lots of true crime shows. See, I'm a big horror movie fan. Since I get scared easily, I'd watch in the morning. My logic is that it’s less scary in the daytime than at nighttime. Hey, works for me.

With true crime podcasts, I thought, well, maybe I could listen to it as I go to sleep. My logic is that I won’t see any gory or disturbing images anyway. It may be less scary, but I'll hear a gripping story, nonetheless.

That's where I was wrong. So wrong. I forgot that horror is all about sound. I forgot that when I was in grade school, I would play video games on mute because the background music terrified me during boss fights to the point that I would lose because I was too frightened to make a move.

Come to think of it, audio dramas were already a staple in my childhood. They just didn’t come in the form of podcasts. Back then, they would blast from the radio (remember those things with speakers and dials, and the fancy ones with cassette players?). Anyway, radio dramas would permeate the house, especially the kitchen during meal preps.

I would say that my budding interest in audio dramas was interrupted and is currently, slowly but surely, being reignited, thanks to the emergence of podcasts and the developments in technology, plus, I must admit, the social distancing we have to observe.

Cover art of one of the twenty audio dramas from Room to Read and Tanghalang Pilipino's Mga Kuwentong Musmos project.

Now I get to share this fascination — not with horror stories — but with audio dramas with my niece. Bit of a backstory. I live in a townhouse and next to my unit is my sister’s unit. So during this whole pandemic, I get to spend more time with my four-year-old niece.

I try to be that tita who introduces her to art. She's turning five in May and mostly I've been giving her books as presents. Late last year, though, Room to Read, a global nonprofit organization focusing on children’s education, partnered with local theatre company Tanghalang Pilipino to create Mga Kuwentong Musmos, which is an audio drama series based on Filipino picture books.

Because of this project, my niece and I have something new to quote-unquote, play with.

At the moment there are 20 episodes in Mga Kuwentong Musmos, each runs for around 10 to 20 minutes. The stories highlight self-acceptance and inclusivity, as well as dealing with difficult circumstances. These may seem like big themes, but the audio-retelling remains engaging through its use of effects and pop culture references, not to mention talented voice actors.

What I like about the aural medium is, like reading, it pushes our imagination to work hard. It also teaches us to be attentive, not only to other people but to our surroundings. And personally, for my niece, I believe that this is one of the best ways to learn the Filipino language.

You and your little ones can listen to these stories on Tanghalang Pilipino's YouTube channel. If you don't have a child at home, send the link to your friends with children or to your grade school teacher friends. They will thank you.

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