Before audio fiction books were available,
old-time radio shows were highly anticipated family or neighborhood night activities.
Evenings were set aside for dramas like Little Orphan Annie or The
When raising my own kids in a newer era, every Sunday evening was "radio show" night. Though we occasionally tuned into real old-time radio shows, we more often rented or purchased audio books.
The family relaxed as we mutually experienced the same story together rather than being plugged into our own separate universes or staring at a screen. Today, there are online sources for free old time radio dramas, fiction audio books for rent or sale, and you can usually check out audio books for free from your library. You may even find something appropriate live on National Public Radio.
Listening to fiction audio books or radio shows can bring surprising benefits:
Although this article focuses on families, it's also a great activity for feeding the introvert side of our souls, as it allows friends to be together for artistic exposure and introspection, while they don't have to maintain exhausting small talk!
The benefits of family night activities revolving around group listening were taken for granted back then:
Below, Amy Rose gives tips on how to return evenings of old time radio shows (or audio book rentals!) to today’s fast-paced family life with sometimes “hyper” children.
1. Choose a specific evening and short time frame you know you can stick with. You may want to start out with just 20 minutes to 30 minutes in our visually oriented and time crunched era, and grow from there if it feels natural. Don’t force longer listening yet when choosing audio book rentals or other sources of audio storytelling. The family’s audio intelligence will no doubt grow, so you can make it longer after you conquer the shorter time span. Weekly or bi-weekly works best for many.
2. Choose stories that finish completely in the time frame for very young kids. As you hunt for free old time radio shows or audio book rentals, most will give the time length in minutes.
3. For adults and older kids you have the option of choosing longer stories and returning to that same story for each radio show evening. Still, stick to the shorter listening time, allowing kids to “want” the listening to go on longer and to anticipate the next one. We humans desperately need comforting rhythms to daily life that don’t change, and to restore our ability to delay gratification.
4. Allow silent hand activities that don’t overly engage the mind, such as knitting on automatic pilot or quiet body fidgeting. It’s painful for some kids today to stay still. Even some adults listen better with hands busy in an activity that allows their mind to stay free. Provide specific "quiet listening" fidgeting choices such as stuffed animals or other cloth toys that can be twisted and squeezed, a quiet rocking chair, a cuddly blanket, and big cushions for rolling around on. Studies have shown some people hear better when they doodle on paper while others would actually be ignoring the story and engaging their minds on something else. You be the judge.
5. You might want to make special healthy snacks especially for radio shows. These work best if they’re soft finger snacks like seedless grapes and nuts which can be eaten quietly and don’t get the hands sticky or greasy. By making them healthy, kids learn to associate comfort and happiness with healthy foods instead of the usual opposite. They’ll remember it later in life when they want to comfort themselves.
6. Have both older and younger kids? Here’s something that may work. Politely listen as a family to the younger one’s 10 or 15 minute audio book rentals right before his bedtime, then put him to bed and continue with the rest of the family returning to their longer drama. It can be soothing for a young child to drift off to the distant sound of a radio show the rest are listening to. Make the rules firm that he stays in bed and stays quiet. Rules make kids feel safe.
7. As a fun option, include lighting incense or a candle that’s set aside only for your story listening evenings. It creates ambiance and a calm festive feeling for listening to audio dramas. You might even want to use candles with essential oils known for calm and relaxation.
8. Drop a pin onto a plate with everyone else’s eyes closed right before the show begins. This revs up listening and quiets active, fidgeting minds.