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WKAR Celebrates 50 years of Radio Reading Service

October 6, 2023

WKAR Radio Reading Service listener Roberta McCall, with a WKAR RRS radio receiver. (Photo credit: WKAR/MSU)


On October 1, 1973, WKAR Radio at Michigan State University launched a special audio service to provide news, information, and entertainment to those with trouble seeing or reading the printed word. Originally launched as The Radio Talking Book, this week WKAR Radio Reading Service celebrates 50 years on the air serving the mid-Michigan community.

“This milestone truly demonstrates WKAR’s commitment throughout our history to serving our community in unique and impactful ways,” said Shawn Turner, general manager at WKAR Public Media. “Knowing that this service has been such a positive presence in people’s lives for so many years is one of many achievements that make me extremely proud to be at WKAR.”

WKAR Radio Reading Service is available at no cost to persons with trouble reading or using printed materials as a result of a visual, physical or cognitive condition, including macular degeneration, glaucoma, retinitis pigmentosa or dyslexia. Those enrolled in the service are provided with a radio specially configured to receive the WKAR Radio Reading Service broadcast signal.

The free service currently reaches more than 500 listeners in mid-Michigan. One of those listeners is Roberta McCall.

“It's like having somebody sitting at your kitchen table reading you the paper,” said McCall in a WKAR video celebrating the anniversary. “Where else are you going to hear the grocery ad? They're not going to read it on mainstream TV or radio. Forget it.”

WKAR has a roster of more than 50 volunteers reading live announcements and recording content for listeners. Jan Shoemaker is a volunteer reader.

“It feels great to support the community in this way. I love serving people who clearly want fact-based, responsible news,” said Shoemaker in the celebration video. “To do this thing that helps improve people's lives. It's a joy.”

“Every day I work with dedicated volunteer readers who care about expanding the world of our listeners,” said Brad Walker, director of the service. “Those who use WKAR Radio Reading Service and their families are always grateful to know that WKAR cares about them and strives to meet their needs.”

WKAR Radio Reading Service is made possible in part by individual donations and endowments from community members.

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