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Radio : FOR KIDS : Listening for Things to Do : A mother realizes her dream with a show geared to keeping children active and entertained.

September 10, 1993|R. DANIEL FOSTER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; R. Daniel Foster is a regular contributor to Valley Life.

Rita Pardue's mother would invent activities to keep her "out of trouble" when Rita ran out of things to do as a child. Now Pardue has carved a career out of concocting inventive activities for children.

Pardue's "The Nothing-To-Do-Alphabet Workshop" began airing in March on KCSN (88.5 FM). The live program on Sunday mornings is a mix of songs, games and crafts. It was originally produced and hosted by Pardue on West Hills-based KWNK (67 AM) from 1989-90.

The market for children's radio has traditionally been small--or nonexistent--but working in the now-burgeoning medium has been Pardue's longtime dream.

"Everyone said I was crazy when I started this," said Pardue, who launched her original venture on KWNK as a requirement to obtain her master's degree in child development from Cal State L.A. "But I've stuck with it--and now I feel excited being at the inception of more children's programming."

Pardue is also an account executive at Radio AAHS in Los Angeles, an affiliate of the Minneapolis-based Children's Satellite Network, founded in 1990. Radio AAHS began broadcasting children's programming around the clock in February on KPLS (830 AM) in Los Angeles and KCTQ (850 AM) in Thousand Oaks.

"Rita is someone who saw the market for children's radio all along, even before any children's network existed," said Danny Villanueva, president of Radio AAHS. "She has good instincts about the care that needs to go into children's programming."

The Alphabet Workshop is geared to children of all ages, but Pardue said she hopes entire families will listen. "I mention lots of activities families can do together, like going to festivals, museums and readings at libraries," said Pardue, who has taught workshops at the Los Angeles Children's Museum for 10 years. "And parents can listen in with their kids in the car too."

Each of Pardue's shows targets a letter of the alphabet as a way to introduce topics. Her first show began with the theme of "America." Guest Michael Neel, 8, who attends Keppel Elementary School in Glendale, read his essay, "If I Were President," which won a national PTA contest.

"The show boosted Michael's self-esteem, and his class got a lift out of the show as well," said Pardue, who also taught listeners how to make astronaut helmets out of milk cartons on her first show. "Raising kids' esteem is really what the show is about."

When Pardue first approached KCSN to pitch her concept, program director Jared Charles Kliger thought "she was just another person who wanted her own radio show," Kliger said. "I needed a classical music announcer and she had some music background, so I thought I would try her out doing that.

"She ended up selling me on her show. She has tremendous energy and goes nonstop during air time--with live drama, sound effects and music. The show has been a great success."

Kliger also took note of Pardue's rich voice. Pardue said it's essential that her voice sound sincere and engaged with listeners at all times, especially when addressing children. "In radio, kids aren't bogged down with all the visuals you have on television," said Pardue who composed and sang the opening and closing music for the "Alphabet Workshop."

"Radio is great for kids because it builds imagination, develops auditory skills and can lengthen attention spans," said Pardue, who lives with her husband Howard Fallman and sons Dan, 5, and Brian, 3, in Glendale.

One other local children's program broadcasts in the area. "One of a Kind," a blend of music, jokes and event announcements that began last summer, airs on Westlake Village's KNJO (92.7 FM) from 8 to 9 a.m. Sundays.

Pardue's eventual goal is to teach radio workshops at area schools. And of course, she would like her own show on Radio AAHS, which now airs only network programs.

"For the past few years, I've been in one those 'being at the right time and right place' sort of modes," Pardue said. "All the pieces are coming together for children's radio. I'm glad to be in the middle of it."

WHERE AND WHEN

* What: "The Nothing-To-Do-Alphabet Workshop" on KCSN (88.5 FM).

* Hours: 9:30-10 a.m. Sundays.

* Call: The show, which is aired live, can be reached at (818) 885-5276.

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