Disclosure: I partnered with Circle Round to bring you this information.
Do your kids love stories? Then, they’ll love Circle Round, a storytelling podcast for children ages 4 – 10 of fascinating fables and folktale stories from other cultures emphasizing values such as kindness, being a good friend, and generosity. Perfect for boys and girls, these 10 – 20-minute stories are the right length to listen to in the car, while eating a snack or a meal, or at bedtime. Circle Round makes for an enriching alternative to screen time, too.
Just finishing the first season, Circle Round (produced by WBUR, NPR’s Boston affiliate”) is almost to 30 stories, each one narrated by theatre, film, and TV actors who do an amazing job of creating unique voices for the different parts. Add the story’s music and sound effects to get a full, immersive listening experience. I am totally impressed at how skilled these actors are, too. You’re probably like me and read out loud to your kids, hoping to change the voices of the characters to make things interesting. But we’ve got nothing on these professionals. They’re amazing! You often can’t even tell it’s the same actor doing a different part.
Get ready, it’s time to Circle Round…
Listening to the stories, my daughter and I noticed both the differences and similarities between cultures. You can do this too. Listen with a curious mind. See what you notice.
You might notice similarities in the stories like magic, good vs. evil, disguised magical beings, natural elements, clever characters, and greedy characters.
What about the differences? You’ll hear different names, places, everyday objects, and food depending on where the story is from.
For us, hearing these stories sparked an interest in world cultures and taught us something new in each episode.
Traditions and Culture
Folktales are foundational stories of a culture. They explain natural phenomena (“Why the Ocean Is Salty“) and, like fairy tales, teach life lessons.
It’s fascinating to listen to these traditional tales because you’ll learn more about the culture the stories come from. You’ll learn about important mythical figures in the culture (Grandfather Sun, for example from the Wampanoag) as well as the important values like generosity in India.
The introduction will ask listeners to consider a question that sets the stage for the folktale’s big lesson. In the story, “Share and Share Alike,” the podcast hosts ask children, “When’s the last time you shared with someone?”
There’s a short break in the middle of the story. I think this is a nice wake-up moment to keep children’s attention.
The stories end with a “your turn” question — something to think about that relates to the story. “What can you do to be a good friend this week?” This gives you an opportunity to explore the lessons from the story.
Each podcast episode includes a free printable coloring page for kids to do while listening. Other ideas to keep your ears listening and hands busy include drawing or working on a puzzle.
How to Listen to the Circle Round Podcast
You can listen to the show on the website here. But, podcasts can be organized and downloaded on apps. I personally like the free Overcast app. Other podcast apps are Kids Listen (an app specifically for kids!) and Stitcher, and iTunes
Simply add the podcast app to your device, search for Circle Round, subscribe, and get started listening.
More About Circle Round
Some of our favorite stories so far include:
- “Maushop and Grandfather Sun” featuring Katasha Acosta, Alexandra Templer, Delores King Williams, Brendan Dalton, Tom Story, Keshav Moodliar, Morgan Elizabeth, Craig Wallace and Wes Studi. Adults: you can see Wes Studi on the Showtime series, “Penny Dreadful,” and look for him later this year in the feature film, “The Pipeline.” Adapted by Jessica Alpert and Rebecca Sheir. Music and sound design by Eric Shimelonis.
- “The Drum” featuring Jacob Yeh, Sarah Storm, Eric Messner, Hana Kenny, Mitch Hebert, Phoebe Lloyd, Anu Yadav, and Shankar Vedantam. Grown-ups: you can hear Shankar on “Hidden Brain:” the brilliant show and podcast from NPR. This story was adapted for Circle Round by Jessica Alpert and Rebecca Sheir. Original composition and sound design by Eric Shimelonis.
- “Sadko and the Sea” featuring James Konicek, Thom Whaley, Lakshmi Singh and Max Greenfield. Grown-ups, you can catch Max on the FX original series: “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story.” And you can hear Lakshmi Singh on your favorite public-radio station… bringing you the news on NPR.
Other actors on the podcast include Jason Alexander, Kathryn Hahn, Lou Diamond Phillips, and Jon Cryer.
Circle Round is narrated by Rebecca Sheir. Original music is composed and performed by Rebecca’s husband, Eric Shimelonis, who introduces a different instrument for each episode.
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