Radio for Children

Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - 01:07 PM


Our five-year old at home loves The Singing Lady, WNYC's program of tales and music for children from before her parents were born.

Kids today spend too much time on their computers, PDAs or video-game consoles — and it is outrageous what they are exposed to! The "kids today" of yore spent too much time watching television, reading comics, reading pulp fiction or, in Cervantes' times, romance novels (when will we get the Quixote of apps?). But radio? Well, gather round, children, and listen to the beacon of peace that is Ireene Wicker's "Singing Lady."

Ireene Wicker was "one of the very earliest children's radio storytellers." She started on NBC in January 1932 already having coined the moniker The Singing Lady. It is reported that she added an extra 'e' to her name when a numerologist suggested it would bring her good luck.

WNYC's "The Singing Lady" had minimal production values and staff: just Ms. Wicker and the young, talented pianist Samuel Sanders. But that did not stop it from receiving a Peabody Award in 1960. She actually did just a little singing beyond the very catchy theme song, although her talent for drama and for recreating a great variety of character voices shines through.

Lest you think this 1960s program is a reflection of more genteel times, most children's radio programs have always been about adventures and violence — so much so that already by 1937 poet Berton Braley had rewritten the Longfellow poem "The Children's Hour" to start thus:

Between the dark and the daylight,
There comes from each radio tower
A series of gentle broadcasts
That are known as the Children's Hour.

And the girls and boys are gathered
To listen with bated breath
To educational programs
Of murder and Sudden Death.

By 1935 an article in National Education Association Journal reported that radio listening had created "a nightmare in the home," converting children into nervous wrecks oblivious to everything else; Azriel Eisenberg's 1936 study of 3,000 New York children age 10 to 13 found that more than a third of them had their sleep affected by the radio programs they listened to.

Although far more research has since been conducted on television programming for children, the argument about radio raged on for decades: some studies showed negative effects on children's sleep patterns or other behaviors, while content producers found their programs not pernicious — but effective in selling their advertisers' products.

Perhaps the dire warnings about quantity and quality of media that analysts have shouted for decades have footing: after all, we live in an increasingly sedentary, overweight and violent society. If so, we invite you to counteract all your crazy radio listening with Ireene Wicker's gentle "The Singing Lady."


More in:

Comments [3]

meyer nerod from 2551 heathrow ln manasquan nj

trying to locate recordings of the singing lady irene wicker

Aug. 19 2014 11:05 AM
irene mitchell from Westminster,

Listening to The Singing Lady today brought back many fond memories. When my cousin and I listened as children of the depression,back in 1930 or so, we were transported to a magic fairy land that brought joy to our very young hearts and lives.

Jun. 24 2012 04:00 PM
edward healy

I was a singer on the PAL saturday morning radio show on new york radio station wnyc in 1941 or 1942. I often remember the man who was the accompnist on the piano, arthur ford. Another boy who did a danny kaye song was seamore tepper. A man with an Irish name was in charge but i do not recall his name or the man with a deep yoice who was the radio announcer.They were good days.

May. 03 2011 11:22 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.


About NYPR Archives & Preservation

Mission Statement: The New York Public Radio Archives supports the mission and goals of WNYC and WQXR by honoring the broadcast heritage of the radio stations and preserving their organizational and programming legacy for future generations of public radio listeners. The Archives will collect, organize, document, showcase and make available for production all original work generated by and produced in association with WNYC and WQXR Radio.

The NYPR Archives serves the stations staff and producers by providing them with digital copies of our broadcast material spanning WNYC and WQXR's respective 90 and 77 year histories.  We also catalog, preserve and digitize, provide reference services, store, and acquire WNYC and WQXR broadcast material (originals and copies) missing from the collection. This repatriation effort has been aided by dozens of former WNYC and WQXR staff as well as a number of key institutions. Additionally, our collecting over the last ten years goes beyond sound and includes photos, publicity materials, program guides, microphones, coffee mugs, buttons and other ephemera. We've left no stone unturned in our pursuit of these artifacts. The History Notes is a showcase for many of these non-broadcast items in our collection. 

In fact, if you’ve got that vintage WNYC or WQXR knick-knack, gee-gaw, or maybe a photo of someone in front of our mic, an old program guide or vintage piece of remote equipment and would like to donate it to us, or provide a copy of the item to us, write to Andy Lanset at   

The Archives and Preservation series was created to bring together the leading NYPR Archives related, created, or sourced content material at


Supported by