The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder are a timeless treasure enjoyed by parents and children alike. Many families have copies of the books, and read them aloud together. But have you ever heard one performed as a radio play?
In the days before television families sat together around the “wireless” to listen to music and news, but also to an art form known as radio drama. Radio plays began to be broadcast in the 1920’s and were a leading form of entertainment by the 1940’s, in Canada and the United States as well as the UK and other countries. Orson Welles’ radio adaptation of The War of the Worlds is probably one of the most famous works of all time. Although they began to give way to television programming in the 1950’s and 1960’s, radio drama has survived both in archives and in current works. The CBC still airs radio drama today.
Parents and teachers who would like to expose children to a genuine radio play from the past can download a free copy of The Long Winter from Homeschool Radio Shows web site. This adaptation of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Newbery Honor Book was originally aired in 1950, as part of the Hallmark Playhouse. It plays for just over 30 minutes, and features actor Edward Arnold in the role of Pa Ingalls.
While you contemplate the difficulty of getting around Montreal after a snowstorm, make up some cocoa for the family and play this story of survival through true winter hardship. The Ingalls family are snowed in not for a couple hours or days, but for an entire season. As their food and fuel supplies dwindle the family finds creative ways to stretch what little they have. When the trains can’t get through to drop supplies for the town, Pa and Almanzo Wilder travel a great distance through the Dakota snow, hoping to buy wheat that everyone desperately needs. Even with the wheat, things will be tight until spring arrives.
This radio play is a fabulous introduction to the Little House stories for young people who have never read them. It is also an interesting look back on 1950’s advertising, a topic which may lead to discussions about today’s advertising and other media awareness subjects. Homeschool Radio Shows is offering the free download all week. Also available this week are “The Great Blizzard of 1888” and “Sgt. Preston of the Yukon: The Dachshund,” two more cold-weather recordings from the 1940’s.
To download the files:
Homeschool Radio Shows
For more information:
- BBC school radio
- Children’s radio and radio drama listing at Kids Music Planet
- Creating participatory radio drama with children
- Little House teacher’s guide (PDF)
- Radio drama resources from teacher Alan Beck
- Radio drama revival