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Family

A storytelling podcast for kids (that parents can enjoy, too)

Mon., Oct. 30, 2017, 7:58 a.m.

Jason Alexander is among the performers who lend their vocal skills to the new storytelling app, Circle Round. (Charles Sykes / Invision/AP)
Jason Alexander is among the performers who lend their vocal skills to the new storytelling app, Circle Round. (Charles Sykes / Invision/AP)

There are so many ways a child can enjoy a story: Books at bedtime, a grandparent who’s especially good at spinning a tale, story times at libraries, and yes, on screens. But remember those days our parents or grandparents spoke of, where they would gather round a radio and listen to stories?

Time to tune in to podcasts, with your kids.

Many adults turn to podcasts for stories, news and more, so it’s no surprise that our kids can now do the same. Enter Circle Round, a beautiful way of listening to folk tales from around the world.

Talk about parent enjoyment: The first one features George Costanza … I mean Jason Alexander … as the main character in an adaptation of a Yiddish tale.

We spoke with Jessica Alpert of Boston’s NPR news station about why she wanted to create this podcast and what she hopes kids and their families get out of it.

Q. How did this get started?

A. I was part of the team that launched the Modern Love podcast. So much love and care went into that. I wanted my kid to hear that level of beautiful sound design. I was digging around and just didn’t find any pure storytelling podcasts. Everything I found was a lot of Cinderellas and Snow Whites. While timeless, I just wanted to expand on that. I have twin 5-year-olds, a boy and a girl. They were ready to hear more complex stories. And I wanted to talk with them about it. We can make something beautiful that’s also fun for parents.

Q. What’s the market, the idea behind it?

A. We thought we could reach so many different parents. It’s just absorbed in kindness and generosity. I studied the market: Christian parenting, progressive parenting. And I thought this could really appeal to everyone, unless you want your kid to be a bully. Parents may want different things for their child, but we can all come together around these core values of generosity, kindness, perspective. Being able to reflect on one’s own life. Just building curiosity is a great skill for kids. Just to ask questions. Whether in class or in conversation, it makes people more thoughtful and more aware.

Q. How are you picking stories?

A. We just look around the world. Or … just dug into folklore books. We’re trying to showcase different stories from around the world, and that’s whee the universality of some of these themes come together. It’s for younger children, so we’re definitely not looking to do anything violent or overly scary or desperately sad. They take you places you didn’t think possible. And ‘though they are adaptations,’ we’re able to maintain some of the integrity of the culture of the story. For “Why the Ocean is Salty,” we got Filipino actors to read (and) Nigerian actors for the one next week – and he remembered the story from growing up.

Q. What do you hope to accomplish?

A. I think of it as a visual detox. I want them to engage with stories. We do get some descriptives, but we’re really careful about letting them form ideas on your own. (They’re) strengthening a different muscle. We want them to be curious and have conversations with grown-ups. That’s something I feel like was so great for me growing up. (Adults) asked what I thought and that was such a gift.

Q. What about your own kids?

A. They really love it. My storytelling skills have just skyrocketed. I’m always testing out stories on them. I told them another story we haven’t produced yet and it’s not a happy ending. My little guy, Theo, said “But Mommy, it’s not happy. It’s sad!” And that was another interesting moment. We didn’t tie it up in a bow. It’s not a devastating end, but it’s not where the character wanted it to go.

Q. What other podcasts do they listen to, or do you think are good for kids now?

A. Wow in the World; But Why; Brains on! There are great science podcasts out there. We’re the only ones using folk tales.