Her radio show is called Sonoma Kids Ask The Experts, but host Cat Smith is learning, too. Like how kids are curious, but just want a straight answer. And that she is definitely not smarter than a fifth grader. So she calls in some help.
“What I’m finding is, the kids just want simple explanations. They hear us talking about LGBTQ rights, but they don’t know what the initials stand for. They don’t know what the word racism means or why they can’t go to school.”
Smith solicits real questions from community kids, and has a guest authority – like Sonoma Mayor Logan Harvey, or a doctor on coronavirus – address them. The show airs Saturdays at noon on 91.3 FM KSVY.
A lot of times kids want guidance, she says, like advice on what to do in certain situations, like when they see someone being bullied. Or what if it’s them? And what about these protests? Or, why do I have to wear a mask when I see a bunch of other people not wearing them?
The format grew out of the challenges of spending 145 lock-down days with two curious kids in the middle of a pandemic. “The two girls (ages 11 and 13) are inquisitive, but being locked in a house together has amplified that curiosity. The world is going through situations that have never happened in their lifetime.”
Smith figured that other parents must also be struggling to answer all of the questions kids have. So she partnered up originally with a teacher at Prestwood, where her 11-year-old goes. “I would love to open this up to other teachers in the Valley to have their students send in questions, too.”
Once she announces her next expert guest, Smith invites questions on that topic through Facebook.com/SonomaKidsAsk and [email protected] “I know that kids all learn in different ways so it was important for me to have shows both for listening to and watching (on YouTube). I’ll also be incorporating a transcript soon for kids who prefer to read.”
The guests get the questions in advance so that they can be thoughtful about their answers, tailoring them to the young – but in their own way, discerning – listeners. “With each question, I read the first name and age of the student who asked it,” says Smith. “I know my kids get a kick out of hearing their names in the interviews.”
Those simple, straight answers are a refreshing change from the standard adulterated version, even on the toughest of topics.
Past guests have included Dr. Jerome Smith, on coronavirus; Celeste Winders discussing racism and protests; Sarah Gibson from Sonoma Valley Fire and Rescue about fire season and preparation; and Gary Saperstein about navigating LGTBQ issues.
Not to say that kids don’t ask the darndest thing. One wanted evacuation advice for his pet leech. Another asked Sarah Gibson, of the Fire & Rescue Authority, “If you slide down a pole, how do you get upstairs again? And what happens if there is a fire at the fire station?”
Smith started the show during the shelter-in-place, “but as the stress levels have come down a bit, we’re also going to mix in some fun topics or experts that they are just curious about.”