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Public-radio stations are seeking that kind of brand loyalty too. They rely on members for financial support and figure that they can cultivate future audiences (and future dollars) if they get kids into the habit of listening now. So programmers across the country are creating shows for children. WFMU, which broadcasts in the New York-New Jersey area, offers Greasy Kid Stuff, with the husband-and-wife team Hova Najarian and Belinda Miller as hosts. The show, which airs on Saturday mornings, is directed at children ages 6 to 11 and features an eclectic mix of music that doesn't condescend to kids (its unofficial motto: No Raffi Ever). The Greasy playlist roams from rockabilly to lullabies, from the funky rock group Yo La Tengo to classic Elvis. "We felt like the kid stuff out there was pretty bland. There was no sense of the alternative," says Miller. "It's definitely a little nutty, a little offbeat. We felt like, 'If we play it, they will come.'" And they have. Greasy Kid Stuff has seen a 40% increase in contributing listeners since the show premiered in 1995.
Meanwhile, KPBX in Spokane, Wash., broadcasts several of the children's concerts it sponsors every year. The concerts have offered bluegrass, Australian bush music, Irish ceilidh music, and a klezmer band. Information about the instruments, musicians and cultures that created the music is a part of each show, and during the holidays, stories that incorporate musical props are added. Gini Dixon and her family are avid KPBX listeners. "The radio is always on," she says. "I think it broadens my kids' horizons." Her son Mitchell, 5, touts the stories, while his sister Elizabeth, 9, is a fan of the music: "It's hard to chose which kind I like best. I like them all."
The stations go after older kids too. WTIP in Grand Marais, Minn., offers Ragamuffin Radio, which was created and is produced by teens. The half-hour show, which airs every Monday, includes music as varied as jazz and folk, stories and reported features on topics such as starting a new school year or celebrating Kwanzaa. "Because WTIP is a community station and kids are part of the community, we wanted a program that represented that," says Mary Igoe, the program director. Her daughter Ada, 17, has worked on the show for three years. "Sometimes I don't feel like doing it," Ada admits, "but I realize if we don't do it, there's nothing else out there for kids." (Ada sheepishly owns up to listening to commercial radio. "But I also listen to NPR," she adds.)