National Writing Project

Rural Voices Radio III Concludes the Series

By: Laura Paradise
Publication: The Voice, Vol. 8, No. 2
Date: March-April 2003

Summary: The third and concluding NWP Rural Voices Radio series features the writings and voices of students and teachers from the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky to the Great Basin of Northern Nevada.


Back by popular demand, Rural Voices Radio will issue its third volume of CDs in early spring. Featuring the writings and voices of students and teachers telling stories about their communities, each program offers listeners a candid look at a distinctive rural world.

Rural Voices Radio was initiated in 1998 when teachers from several rural writing project sites met in Santa Fe to talk about the goal of sharing stories from rural schools. The new two-CD set marks the completion of the 13-part series.

The upcoming CDs, produced by Deborah Begel and narrated by Kim Stafford, are the result of a year-long effort by coordinators at six rural writing project sites. Sites that worked on the project include the Red River Valley Writing Project (North Dakota); the Great Basin Writing Project in Nevada; the South Texas Writing Project and the Sabal Palms Writing Project (Texas); and the Morehead Writing Project and the Mountain Writing Project (Kentucky).

Because the locations of these sites are geographically diverse, listeners to Rural Voices Radio III will to venture from the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky to the expansive Red River Valley of North Dakota; the CDs transport us to the land along the border that divides southern Texas from Mexico, and help us understand the more subtle borders of cultural identity in places like Elko, Nevada, and Brownsville, Texas, where we learn how Mexican-Americans struggle to feel at home. We hear students speak "Tex-Mex," an emerging dialect that combines Spanish and English. We learn of students' travels across the Rio Grande, some wading across the river to emigrate and others going for weekly Sunday dinner with relatives living in nearby Mexico.

Sites involved in the project are celebrating the release. The Texas Border Voices program from the CD was the headliner at the Border Literacy Conference held in January 2003 on South Padre Island in Southern Texas. Lucinda Farrokh, co-director of the South Texas Writing Project, has organized a writing contest and will produce a second Border Voices CD. "After seeing the powerful impact of the first recording on students and teachers, we plan to make the contest and CD an annual event," said Farrokh. She sees the activity as a way to encourage student writing and show the public what students and teachers are doing in the classroom.

The National Writing Project is offering Rural Voices Radio CDs at no charge to noncommercial radio stations. (The thirteen programs provide what they call in the radio business a series—that's one quarter of a year's programming at a rate of one program a week.) NWP will also distribute the new CDs to every writing project in the NWP network.

Although the radio programs were developed to demonstrate excellence in rural classrooms, Rural Voices Radio has become more than a dramatic presentation of teacher and student writing. The CDs are becoming a part of classroom curriculum. Educators nationwide, both inside and outside the writing project network, regularly request copies of the CDs for use in lessons across the curriculum. The consensus is that these CDs inspire student writing, help students understand the concept of voice, and offer teachers ways into teaching the concepts of culture and community.

From the responses each CD elicits, NWP knows that Rural Voices Radio has become a resource for teachers. Kimmy Bost, a teacher in Swansea, South Carolina, who had heard Rural Voices Radio II, wrote, "What a great idea! I teach fourth grade in a very rural town in South Carolina. Our kids don't get to experience the `real world' that much. This would give them a concept of what it is like to be a real author."

The series is also gaining praise from those who work in public radio. Said Carolyn Franzini, of Morehead State University Public Radio, "As I drove past deserted farms, the writings gave voice to the lives that once worked the fertile soil. I was very impressed with the interesting, professional manner [in which] the writings were woven into the fabric of various areas of the country."

Site coordinators who worked on the Rural Voices Radio projects will be meeting in March to discuss plans for creating resources for teachers who are interested in making radio programs on their own. They will also be working on lesson ideas for using the CDs in the classroom. Teachers who have used the CDs in their classrooms are encouraged to visit NWP's online comment line at to share their ideas and samples of student writing. And, at the same website, all are free to download copies of the recordings for their listening pleasure. Stay tuned....

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

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