Listen to folk tales, the history of India’s space programme, and the story of the ta-dum sound that introduces Netflix
After a year of online classes and kids glued to screens of various kinds, give digital fatigue the boot this summer holidays. Introduce your children to podcasts.
Parents who are dipping their toes into this auditory world for the first time, don’t worry. As Kitty Felde, award-winning journalist and host of Book Club for Kids, suggests, try a ‘podcast tasting’. “Listen to one episode every night from a different podcast [and] see which one your child likes. Which one do you like? Make a date to listen together: in the car, at bedtime, while walking the dog together. That podcast can be a jumping off place for a longer discussion between you and your child about topics you never even imagined.”
Here is a list to get you started:
For 10 to 13 years
Baalgatha, a mix of contemporary tales and stories from the Panchatantra, Jataka and Hitopadesha may be the most well-known from Gaathastory’s bouquet of podcasts, but its selection for pre-teens is picking up too. “Veergatha honours the National Bravery Award winners and others who have done courageous deeds”, says Bengaluru-based Amar Deshpande, who started the platform with his wife Mrunal. What is common to all the content is their intention that “every story should have a moral” and an India connect. “We have a library of about 4,000 curated stories that we rewrite and edit, and correlate to topical events,” he says, adding that the aim is to educate while bringing in different elements.
New seasons of all their podcasts out this month.
How do you tell your child what’s going on in the world? Should you even? Well, it is not too bad when a kid explains things. New Delhi-based Leela Sivasankar Prickitt, 8, with a little help from her mother, Lyndee, discusses everything from planes powered by ‘water’ to less kid-friendly topics such as Black Lives Matter. What makes it fun are the sound effects (honking cars and planes taking off) accompanying each bulletin. Listening to other young news correspondents from across the world is an added perk.
Radiolab for Kids
A curated collection from the archives of Radiolab, a Peabody-winning show created in 2002 by Lebanese-American radio host and producer Jad Abumrad, Radiolab for Kids comprises family-friendly content. If your child has ever asked you, ‘What do dogs see when they look at the rainbow?’, this is where you will find the answer.
Book Club for Kids
“I was surprised to find that dystopian novels are so popular, but an eighth grade girl explained that the books had strong female protagonists and all the boys in the books treated her with respect. As opposed to the boys she went to school with,” says US-based Felde. This is just one of the many things she learnt over the course of 117 episodes (and nearly 100 bonus episodes) of Book Club for Kids. The podcast brings together middle schoolers (“our sweet spot is grades 5 to 8 for our book discussions”) who talk about a book they have read, what they liked or disliked about it, and how it made them feel. The show also features celebrity readers. “For example, we had an FBI agent read a spy book and a retired baseball player read a book about baseball cards.”
Children anywhere in the world can participate in the podcast. bookclubforkids.org
13 to 16 years
How did India’s space programme start? Who dreamt of missions to space in an India that was barely a decade into Independence? Narrated by the inimitable cricket commentator-host Harsha Bhogle, the 12-episode podcast is equal parts history lesson and thriller. Created by Mumbai-based media company All Things Small, co-founder Gaurav Vaz says, “We realised India’s foray into space hasn’t really been chronicled. There is no single place that you can go to and find all of this data.” The English may be a little hard for really young children, but Vaz says, “The minute they start learning science and history in school, they can consume a podcast like this. You’re taught about India’s freedom fight, the British rule, about the solar system and astronomy.” Season 2 is currently in the works.
This comes highly recommended by Mae Mariyam Thomas of Maed in India, the podcast that features India’s indie musicians. “The wonderful thing about Geek Fruit is that it’s a space for people to be proud to be a geek,” she says. Started in 2015 by three friends from Mumbai — Jishnu, Dinkar and Tejas — with the idea of building a community of geeks, tune in to catch the trio talk about all the things we love to watch and dissect, from Tintin and Star Wars, to Avengers: Infinity War. Fair warning: they don’t claim to be experts, just passionate fans. So don’t lose your cool if someone wonders if Tintin is from Belgium.
Dear Hank and John
Join the US-based Green brothers — authors and YouTubers Hank and John (of The Fault in Our Stars fame). The banter and shared memories create a wholesome atmosphere as the duo responds to listeners’ questions. Highlights include ‘Why do things burn when not coming into the atmosphere but not when leaving?’ and ‘Does milk expire when it’s inside a cow? Each episode ends with news about their personal passions: planet Mars and the latest on English football club AFC Wimbledon.
Twenty Thousand Hertz
There are sounds that you’ve heard so often that you may not even register them anymore. For instance, the iconic music for 20th Century Fox, or the ‘ta-dum’ that launches Netflix. This podcast is fascinating because it answers the question, ‘What is the story behind that sound?’ It is hosted by US-based Dallas Taylor, who is also creative director of Defacto Sound, a sound design company working on television, film, and games. Vaz (who recommended it) is a listener because learning the “stories behind sounds is really special".
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