National Writing Project

Rural Voices Radio: Bringing Rural Student Voices to the Airwaves

Rural Voices Radio is the first spoken-word production of the National Writing Project. The thirteen-part series features original writings by students and teachers from diverse rural regions throughout the United States. The series currently contains two volumes, with the third CD scheduled for release in spring 2003. The Rural Voices Radio series is available at no cost to educators and non-commercial radio stations.

Produced by the National Writing Project and award-winning producer Deborah Begel (Fresh Air, Selected Shorts), and narrated by Kim Stafford, each half-hour program in the series takes listeners to a distinct location through a blend of stories, essays and poems, local sounds, and music.

The programs communicate the significance of place as an inspiration for good radio, strong writing, and effective classroom teaching. Listeners and authors alike agree that Rural Voices Radio renews the spirit of community and connects us to shared personal experiences.

The Rural Voices Radio series emerged in 1999 from a collaboration between NWP and the Annenberg Foundation's Rural Challenge. With the goal of creating models for rural educators, a cadre of NWP teachers, kindergarten through university, worked together for three years testing, examining, and refining innovations.

Key to their efforts was the desire to increase local participation and integrate place-based themes in student learning.The well-crafted, often poignant writings in Rural Voices Radio are perhaps the best example of this effort. Rural Voices Radio I—with programs from Arizona, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Pennsylvania and Washington—earned a Special Merit Award from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters.

A Great Classroom Resource

In addition to receiving critical acclaim, teachers have had success using selections of Rural Voices Radio programs in their curriculum. "We've used radio programs to model pieces of writing," said Corey Harbaugh, of the Third Coast Writing Project in Michigan. "When students hear rural stories from across the country, two important obstacles are cleared for them: first, the program honors student writers, inviting other students to take their own writing seriously, and second, it permits and invites students to write without apology from their own sense of the places they know."

Carol Brochin of the South Texas Writing Project agrees. "The programs take poetry and stories out of the traditional medium of the textbook so that students hear other students' writing come to life," Brochin said. "These experiences make writing real for students, teachers, and listeners."

A first grade student from Hilo, Hawai'i said, "Writing sometimes is—a miracle! It can become just writing and then a big project that everyone can hear!"


Related Articles

Rural Voices Radio III Concludes the Series (2003)
Since the release of the first CD, the NWP Rural Voices Radio series, which features the writings and voices of students and teachers, has captivated listeners. In this third and final installment, listeners to Rural Voices Radio III will venture from the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky to the Great Basin of Northern Nevada, from the expansive Red River Valley of North Dakota to the border that divides southern Texas and Mexico.

Rural Voices Radio Series Makes an Urban Visit (2002)
What goes into making a radio program? A group working on the upcoming Rural Voices Radio III release went to New York City to put the finishing touches on four, half-hour radio programs featuring teacher and student voices.

Don't Turn That Dial! It May Be Rural Voices Radio (2002)
Rural Voices Radio III, writings of NWP students and teachers, is about to hit the airwaves. Listen online.

Putting NWP Voices on the Map (2002)
The radio series Bill Moyers calls "unforgettable" has just launched its third installment of teachers and students writing about place.

Rural Voices Radio Receives Award (2001)
Rural Voices Radio, the six-part radio series growing out of NWP's Rural Voices, Country Schools project, received a Golden Reel Award.

Rural Voices Radio Launches Three New Pieces (2001)
Teacher coordinators from Hawai`i, Maine, and Mississippi gathered on the UC Berkeley campus to produce an eight-minute CD that will be used to introduce the new Rural Voices Radio programs. The online article includes printed transcripts of "Mama's Button Box," by Suzanne Thompson, "Come with Me," by Ken Martin, and "I Have a Weakness," by Susie Jacobs.

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