National Writing Project

Don't Turn That Dial! It May Be Rural Voices Radio

By: Laura Paradise
Publication: The Voice, Vol. 7, No. 3
Date: May-June 2002

Summary: Rural Voices Radio Volume II, writings of NWP students and teachers, is about to hit the airwaves. Listen online.


Rural Voices Radio II hits the airwaves beginning this month (May). This newest CD is the second title in the National Writing Project's Rural Voices Radio series—a collection of radio programs featuring the original writings of students and teachers from rural writing project sites. This latest edition includes four half-hour programs by students and teachers in Hawai`i, Louisiana, Maine, and Mississippi.

The National Writing Project is offering the CDs at no charge to noncommercial radio stations nationwide and expects a mid-May distribution date. An early April shipment put copies of the CD in the hands of all network writing project sites.

Preview Feedback Positive

Like the first set of radio programs, Rural Voices Radio II has met with encouraging praise. In this case, radio industry folks who received preview copies were singing the CD's praises even before its official release.

"This is great radio, right from the heart, right from where people live," said Richard Towne, general manager of KUNM in Santa Fe, New Mexico. "Your rural audience will appreciate hearing this. Your urban audience has never really lost their love for rural life. They will be enchanted."

Dmae Roberts, executive director of MediaRites Productions, noted, "It is very rare to have extraordinary writing from everyday folk in an intricately woven documentary style."

Further praise came from Harriet Baskas, former general manager of station KBCS in Bellevue, Washington. "These stories present a charming glimpse into the adventures, memories, and experiences of talented young writers," Baskas said. "The fresh voices and carefully chosen music had this city gal imagining herself transplanted into rural communities from Hawai`i to the coast of Maine."

Radio Programs a Great Resource

Rural Voices Radio is termed an "evergreen" in radio parlance because the programs can be played at any time of the year and will still have appeal in years to come. Teachers have discovered the programs are also an evergreen in the classroom, and some have been integrating selections of Rural Voices Radio programs into the curriculum. They say that the impact of hearing student voices makes real the possibility of publication and the power of shared writing.

"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 students: 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 and co-coordinator of the upcoming Texas Border Voices program on Rural Voices Radio III 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."

Want To Hear More?

Work on four final programs in the Rural Voices Radio series is now underway. Independent producer Deborah Begel began her recording visits on the Texas-Mexico border in March with plans to then make her way north to Elko, Nevada, and Red River, North Dakota, before making a final stop in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky. This next CD, Rural Voices Radio III, is scheduled for release in the spring of 2003.

To hear the radio programs or find out how educators are using the programs in their classrooms, visit Interested listeners can download the first two series titles, Rural Voices Radio I and Rural Voices Radio II, from the Web. NWP will be posting writing prompts, sample lessons, and selections of student writing motivated by the CDs in the teacher resource section on the Rural Voices Radio webpage. It is hoped that inspired teachers will visit the webpage and add their own comments or sample prompts to help everyone learn about how writing for radio is helping students find new voice.

And from the students come perhaps some of the best endorsements for the Rural Voices Radio series.

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

And to this, a Hilo fifth-grader added, "I didn't think my writing was good enough. I revised and made it so people around the world could understand it. I learned it was possible to make it better. I am proud of my writing."

Listen to Rural Voices Radio Volume II

About the Author Laura Paradise is a program associate with the National Writing Project.

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