PARENTING : Radio Dramas Tuned to Kids : * A father and daughter create a 30-minute cassette that lets youngsters read along with the script and join in the action.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; <i> Roberta G. Wax is a regular contributor to The Times</i>

“Close your eyes and picture a fluffy teddy bear named Honey,” the woman tells the youngsters gathered at her feet.

“Do you see it? Can you imagine it?”

A dozen heads, eyes covered with little hands, bob up and down.

“What does he look like? Look, there’s a clown and a jack-in-the-box . . . “


The scene is Creative Play Resources, a Northridge toy store and children’s bookshop, and the woman, dressed as a green grasshopper, is Tammy Glenn. Before an awe-struck group of little ones, Glenn and her father, Sam, are performing excerpts from an old-fashioned radio drama they created last year.

Aimed at getting children excited about reading, Radio Drama for Kids is a 30-minute cassette that allows youngsters to read along with the script and join in the action. When the Glenns perform it live--as they do periodically in area bookstores and libraries--they sing, finger a keyboard and play parts of their tape, all of which is just a little more dramatic than the experience of the tape alone.

And unlike traditional storybook tapes, which are usually narrated by a single voice, the Glenns’ radio drama features antic sound effects, sing-along songs and characters who talk to each other.

“It’s a fun way for children to listen to a story,” says Tammy, 27, a graphic designer with a journalism degree from Cal State Northridge. “The idea is to encourage kids to use their imaginations and to read.”

Children are accustomed to having stories read to them, she says, but with the added effects of radio drama, “there’s so much more going on. When I close my eyes, I can visualize all these characters dancing around and talking to each other. I can see doors opening and closing, cash registers jingling. It’s all made up in my head.”

For her father, Sam, 57, radio drama was a big part of childhood. Saturday mornings, he recalls, would find him “by that radio without fail,” listening to a show called “Let’s Pretend,” which dramatized stories and fairy tales.


The genesis of Radio Drama for Kids goes back 25 years to when Sam and his wife, Cathy, who died in 1992, began making up bedtime stories for little Tammy. Cathy wrote the stories and Sam, a former L.A. studio musician, wrote music to go with them. The couple eventually turned these tales into Storybook-in-a-Box, a do-it-yourself project in which children use stickers to illustrate pre-printed stories, color the background and put pages together to create their own book.


Later, wanting to incorporate Sam’s music into the project, Sam and his daughter added sound to the storybook and created Radio Drama for Kids. The aim of both projects, he Glenns say, is not only to entice children to read, but to make them part of the creative process. To date, they have completed four books (each available in a preschool version and one for children 6 and older) and one cassette. More are in the works.

In the radio drama, Tammy, who as a child performed in commercials and once sang with Bernadette Peters on a TV special, does the voices of several characters, while Sam, a.k.a. “Daddy Jazz,” provides music and sound effects.

Richard Peters, who owns Creative Play Resources with a partner, likes the creativity of Radio Drama for Kids because “you have to use a bit more imagination and can interact a little more. You have to fill in the picture. Children still like to pretend.”

During the Saturday story session at Peters’ store, youngsters sit attentively while Tammy-- dressed in green shoes, green tights, green skirt and a green and yellow vest--introduces some of the characters: Ka Ba Zoo the camel (Brenda Kraniak) and Honey and Mrs. Pinchnose (Greg Thompson).


Sam concedes he got a kick watching children “hear” his drama. “When you see some kids really enjoying your project and being really intent,” he says with a grin, “that’s the greatest thing.”


What: Radio Drama for Kids and Storybook-in-a-Box.

Where to find: Creative Play Resources, 8921 Reseda Blvd., Northridge (818) 886-4150. Kids at Heart, 9661 Reseda Blvd., Northridge (818) 993-1359. Child Dreams Children’s Gallery, 12242 1/2 Ventura Blvd., Studio City (818) 761-8508.


Price: $14.95 for the cassette; $12.95 for preschool storybooks; $14.95 for storybooks for children 6 and older.