The Best Kids Radio Show You’ve Never Heard

Slate’s pod pick of the week.

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Since most of Slate’s holiday coverage this year seems to be focused on some rather adult themes (questioning Mary’s virginity, doubting the Gospels’ family values, discussing the Puritans’ ban on Christmas, and piling on Hanukkah as well), I thought I’d throw in a little something for the kids. It’s the perfect gift—the kind that keeps on giving not just for your progeny but for you, too.

Having a young child myself, I’ve been looking for quality podcasts aimed at kids. And although I’ve found a few decent ones, nothing I’ve heard so far is good enough for a tip of the Pod Pick cap. (Don’t bother with the Disney podcasts: They seem even more nakedly promotional than most Disney fare, which is saying a lot.)

So, this week’s Pod Pick is actually not a podcast at all, but rather a streaming radio show, brought to us free of charge (and free of ads) courtesy of the BBC license fees paid by our friends in Britain. It’s from one of the network’s relatively new digital radio channels called BBC 7. The show is Little Toe Radio, and you can find it at this address: http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbc7/bigtoe/littletoe/.

Here’s what Little Toe is not: fatuous, cloying, product-pitching children’s “entertainment” that parents fear is secretly programming their spawn to become consumer zombies.

Here’s what Little Toe is: an hour a day, seven days a week, of very nice-sounding British people reading great children’s stories. It’s as simple, and as wonderful, as that.

Each hour has five or six different stories. Most of the stories are serialized and read over several days (so a typical show might have Part 4 of one story, Part 1 of another, and the final part of a third). You’re likely to hear works by Roald Dahl, Beatrix Potter, Lewis Carroll, and many more contemporary authors. They recently read all of The Wind in the Willows over the course of a couple of weeks. I also caught a less famous story that was a childhood favorite of mine, Flat Stanley, in which a boy becomes as flat as a pancake after a bulletin board falls on him (it’s not as gruesome as it sounds).

Every weekday, Little Toe begins with a charming serial called Wiggly Park, in which we follow the adventures of E.W. the Earthworm, Nifty the Slug, and their friends who live in an English park.

But more than any of the individual elements, it’s the very existence of the show that’s such a revelation: an hour a day of talented people reading books to kids. And kids (at least in my experience) love it. Of course, you and I should be the ones reading to our children for an hour a day—and we all do, right? But it’s nice to have a backup option.

Two quick notes: Little Toe makes the previous seven shows available for on-demand streaming. For those of you who really want to have a podcast version of Little Toe, until the BBC offers one I’ll remind you there are ways to make your own.

There’s also a daily BBC 7 show for older kids called Big Toe, but I haven’t listened to it as much.

And speaking of kids, this week’s Slate podcasts include a wonderful two-part reading by NPR correspondent Eric Weiner of his diary about adopting his daughter in Kazakhstan.

Dec. 23 Adoption, Kazakh Style, Part 2  ( Slate piece)
Dec. 23 Explainer: How Long Can You Wait Before Reattaching a Severed Body Part? ( Slate piece)
Dec. 22 Shortcuts of the Star Chefs  ( Slate piece)
Dec. 22 Explainer: Do Giant Babies Grow Into Giant Adults? ( Slate piece)
Dec. 21 The War on Christmas, the Prequel  ( Slate piece)
Dec. 21 Explainer: When Did Strikes Become Illegal? ( Slate piece)
Dec. 20 Adoption, Kazakh Style, Part 1 ( Slate piece)
Dec. 20 Explainer: Giant Squid, Where Are You? ( Slate piece)
Dec. 19 The Sklars on How To Fix Pro Wrestling  ( Slate piece)
Dec. 19 Explainer: What Happens to Bad Scientists? ( Slate piece)

Write us anytime: podcasts@slate.com