Liz Donnelly was inspired by the radio plays of her childhood, and her son's need for audio stimulation, to create a series of bilingual audio stories, starring Eardrop the rabbit. Here's the inside scoop.
‘Radio plays’ used to be all the rage. The popularity of these full length productions, entirely in audio, using dialogue, music and sounds to tell a story, tailed off with the arrival of television.
Fast forward sixty years: we are now inundated with visual, screen entertainment. Much of it is wonderful, making us laugh, sparking imagination, and enriching our lives. Yet the craft of listening remains an essential life skill. We need to know how to listen before we can learn how to read. We need the ability to unravel the meaning of the messages we hear to make sense of the world. This takes practice.
It’s time for a new wave of radio plays. Ta da! Cue Eardrops children’s stories crafted in audio for the youngest taringa (ears) in the room.
I am the author and producer of Eardrops. With AMP Scholarship funding I have just released six new Eardrops listening stories, three entirely in te reo Māori, and three bilingual, introducing around 600 words of te reo Māori to English speakers.
These audio stories are made for one- to six-year-olds, and have a gentle distinctive style that young children really relate to. Each is an audio feast in true ‘radio play’ style, a mixture of music, singing, real world sound design, laughter and discovery. The te reo voice team is brilliant – all are experienced actors with beautiful voices.
The stories are about a curious rāpeti with supersized ears called Eardrop, who heads out on bunny adventures, teaming up with a friend. Eardrop helps the Farmer (Kaipāmu) feed all the animals in Sounds of the Country/Ngā Tangi o Te Tuawhenua, delivers the mail around the city with the Postie (Kaipoutāpeta) in Sounds of the City/Ngā Tangi o Te Tāone, and gets the house ready for a birthday party with Kuia in Sounds of the Home/Ngā Tangi o Te Kāinga.
The bilingual Eardrops stories are an easy tool for anyone looking to learn nifty words like waka topatopa (helicopter), papa tākaro (playground) and kihikihi (cicadas). The characters laugh with each other, listen with interest to the sound of the animal, machine or vehicle they’ve encountered, talk directly to the child listening along, clearly express the English or te reo Māori words to describe the action, and sing about what they’ve learnt earlier in the story.
Take a listen! Here's a preview, featuring the voice talents of Naomi Toilalo (Eardrop rāpeti) and Matu Ngaropo (Kaipoutāpeta).
The idea for Eardrops crystallised when my son was three and suffered from glue ear, that hideous, yet common condition where fluid collects behind the ear drum, hardens into ‘glue’, and makes it difficult for a child to hear clearly. There were no good listening resources available for children that presented real world sounds clearly.
Having worked in the television industry in senior children’s media roles and completed a Master’s degree in Media, with the help of a team of experienced educators and a talented sound engineer (my genius cousin), the adventures of Eardrop rabbit soon went into production.
Eardrops lines up with other independently published stories, adding to the local voices in the mix of media we offer our tamariki. We need these local voices – our Wonky Donkey, our Te Reo Singalong series. In order to build a community with a strong sense of ‘self’, where children feel like they belong, then the books, songs, audio stories, TV shows and other media that they see and hear need to reflect their world back to them.
Children love to listen to Eardrops at home, in the car, and in their schools. One Mum credits Eardrops for an extra hour of snoozing every morning for an entire year as her three-year-old woke up and listened to Sounds of the Home twice through everyday. Another Dad says his daughter requested an Eardrops story every hour of the day. Another boy, 17, with developmental delays, listens for hours to Eardrops almost every day – and he has done this for many years.
Eardrops CDs fit beside the picture books on shelves and the downloaded stories sit alongside music on phones. They can be used anytime, anywhere. Parents, enjoy the space to have a screen-free cuppa or a scream-free drive home while your child is happily entertained by Eardrop. My gift to you.
Available on CD or as downloads
Liz Donnelly is the author and producer of the Eardrops audio stories for children. She was awarded an AMP Scholarship in 2016 and self-published Eardrops in te reo Māori in 2017 as a result. Prior to this, Liz worked in television as a Children’s Media Specialist and wrote for Littlies Parenting Magazine, OH Baby!, Idealog, and Her.