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KIDS radio wants youngsters to turn off the television and tune into radio in an effort to spark the airwaves of their imaginations and get the young minds interested in literature.

KIDS radio is one of three stations nationwide devoted to children 12 years of age and under."With good music and the right stories, you provide the children with a chance to use their own imaginations," says Hershel Hartford, operations manager at KIDS (1340 AM).

Hartford creates characters with his voice like the "Guy in the Sky," who tells jokes from an imaginary helicopter. He also lets children help make their own public service annoucements and assist with other aspects of production.

The station's 12-hour-a-day programming features recorded music and stories - often classics read by big-screen stars like Jack Nicholson, Jodie Foster, Denzel Washington and Raul Julia.

"What we are doing is exposing children to literature," says Jeanne Kramer, KIDS general manager. "It's audio literature, but I think it engenders more reading."

All-children's radio stations in St. Louis and Little Rock, Ark., were early flops, and a satellite network from the flagship "Imagination Station" in Orlando, Fla., fizzled in 1991 after about a year on the air.

Kramer says, " `Sesame Street' has been a very big success, but you have to remember that it took a long time for that to take hold."

KKDS in Salt Lake City has aired an all-children's format since late 1990.

Alan Hague, KKDS general manager, says today's children are much more plugged into the media than a decade ago. Little fingers learn to use computers, radio tuners and TV remote controls around the time they get handy with a fork and spoon.

Christopher Dahl, president of the newly formed Children's Broadcasting Network, runs WWTC-AM in Minneapolis, which he intends to make the flagship of a national satellite network.

Dahl predicts a boom in the recording industry for children's music and believes radio can pull the bandwagon.