Radio Free Imagine Neighborhood Invites Your Imagination to Take Flight

Stacey Ebert's picture

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

Maya Angelou

We learn from a young age to share our toys, treat people the way we’d like to be treated, and help a friend in need. Kindergarteners sit next to one another in their reading circles, play with blocks together, and ensure that each child has a buddy for lunchtime. The deeper details of that messaging don’t get spelled out until the later years of schooling, but the feeling of a warm hug is always there in the background. 

While in the later years of education, traditional curriculums tend to focus far more on reading, writing, ‘rithmetic, and rigor, the lessons founded in empathy and social emotional learning continue to be a vital portion to all of the developmental stages. 

As an educator, I have always believed strongly in the value of empathy and that students often remember less about facts and figures and far more how they feel in a classroom. 

With a life motto to be a good human, I did my best in my high school teaching experience to impart those people and life skills to all who graced my classroom. How we treat each other matters in all stages of learning and life and this activity book shares that mindset. 

Radio Free Imagine Neighborhood, produced by Committee for Children, capitalizes on the notion of social emotional learning, empathy, and the benefits of play. Throughout the intentional and colorful pages, innovative and quirky characters emerge inviting readers to imagine and to explore their growing hearts and minds. 

Radio Free Imagine Neighborhood

Friends like Macho Supreme, Count Vacula, Doctor Apocalypso, Princess Donnasaurus, and more keep readers engaged in stories, participating in activities, and using both their thinking caps and imagination skills along the journey. The activity book makes a point to encourage readers to dream, discover, and have a look at their own thoughts, opinions, feelings and ideas, inspires them to have faith in their process and products, and to be proud to share their accomplishments. Throughout the brightly filled pages, these characters cheer on their readers while teaching them about compassion, kindness, and how to be a good neighbor. 

With stickers, activities that use minimal items found in most households, and creative knowhow, Radio Free Imagine Neighborhood teaches kindness, instills positive communication styles, and stimulates the mind. Used as a vehicle for informal learning through play, both young learners and those young at heart will love the time spent flipping through these pages. 

Radio Free Imagine Neighborhood

I’m already looking forward to sharing my copy with the little learners in my world - check in on their website to get yours today. And, like the activity book asks, let’s do our best to employ that empathetic mindset and remember to ask ourselves, “how were we kind today?”

Highly Recommended.

We were lucky enough to chat with Scotty Iseri about this book, inspiration, and more. Here’s what he had to say…

Scotty Iseri, Radio Free Imagine Neighborhood

What inspired you to create this activity-based book? 
We were very lucky to receive a grant from the Allstate Foundation to expand the world of The Imagine Neighborhood. We wanted to make something for kids to experience when they’re not listening to the show,  that keeps their creativity and spirit alive, and is a valuable educational tool for families. The idea of a book that you “play” was really exciting for us; in the same way that the show invites kids to play and discuss and learn, we wanted Radio Free Imagine Neighborhood to do so as well.

How does this book align with your life’s work? 
I’ve always been fascinated by the places where people choose to learn. As kids, we are required by law to learn, and as adults, oftentimes our learning experiences are applied towards some goal: a degree, certification, etc. There are so many awesome things that we learn because we want to, not because we have to: playing an instrument, learning a language, picking up a sport. The book, and the podcast, are ways to say, “Can we make that same learning experience fun and interesting with social and emotional skills?” 

How do you think teaching and sharing SEL can change the world for the better?
I think the mission of our show is to have discussions about, and improve upon, our empathy and our feelings. We’re all people, no matter what your identity is, and we all have feelings, different though they may be. I think teaching and sharing SEL is one of the great tasks of humans. How can we get along so that we can make the world a wonderful place? It can start by understanding your own emotions and by helping kids understand theirs. 

What influenced your podcast & how do the book and podcast go hand in hand? 
A lot of the obvious inspiration comes from the pedagogy around social emotional learning, and we take great care to make sure we have amazing researchers like Dr. Sherri Widen and Dr. Aisha White to keep our stories aligned with science. I’ve also loved the work of a writer and researcher named Iona Opie. She worked on something called “Childlore,” which is sort of the “folklore of children.” These are games that many of us played all through childhood, like the floor is lava, or the sidewalk cracks are lasers. I love the way that kids can take a world that was not really built for them and turn it into a playground. 

The book and the podcast are really fun companions. It’s an interesting challenge taking an audio podcast and moving it into a visual medium like books. We don’t have “official” versions of what the characters look like; it’s much more fun to see the versions of the characters that our listeners draw and send in. So a lot of the book is dedicated to protecting that same kind of magical imagination that comes from the show. 

What are some major points about the necessity and teaching of SEL you hope readers take away from your work? 
When I look at the news, or even out my window, I can see a need for empathy everywhere we go. I was in a bathroom at a gas station once, and some guy wearing a T-shirt that said “F*** your feelings” was really mad at me for wearing a mask. I think there’s a lot of anger and uncertainty about the world we live in, and while empathy can’t solve every problem, we all do a little better when we consider the feelings of others. 

Also, kids and grown-ups can do this work together. I’m a single dad, and I’m learning new things from my son every day. I often find myself realizing that he’s teaching me as much as I’m trying to guide him. 

What’s up next for you? 
Coming up, we have some awesome back-to-school episodes that are all about how we communicate. We have amazing stories where wizards are seeking treasure in an ancient temple, a robot vampire tries to become a superhero, and more. But all the episodes are also about how we talk to one another: how we learn names, get to know people, and make new friends.

Later in the year, we’re trying out a pilot program in libraries where kids can do a cool activity around The Imagine Neighborhood. I’m really excited to be able to bring our stories into the real world, and libraries are one of my favorite places.

Where can readers find your work? 
Everything we do is on, but we’re also available anywhere podcasts are found (iTunes, Spotify, you can even ask a smart speaker to play it). Radio Free Imagine Neighborhood is only available on our website for now, but you can see some of the cool work that kids send us on there as well. 

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us? 
We like to end every episode of the show by asking, “How were you kind today?” It’s a really great reminder to myself to practice being kind. It was incredibly kind of you to interview me today, but I’d love to know: how were you, and your readers, kind today?

Scotty Iseri is an award-winning producer and narrative designer. He spent 10 years as a media producer for Chicago Public Radio and the nationally syndicated programs HIV Talk Radio Project and Smart City Radio. As a fellow at the Center for Asian American Media, Scotty created the award-winning mobile app and video program, The Digits. He’s the inventor of the Paper Hat Game, and his favorite part of The Imagine Neighborhood is when listeners tell us how they were kind today. 

Stacey Ebert, our Educational Travels Editor, is a traveler at heart who met her Australian-born husband while on a trip in New Zealand. Stacey was an extracurricular advisor and taught history in a Long Island public high school for over fifteen years, enjoying both the formal and informal educational practices. After a one year 'round the world honeymoon, travel and its many gifts changed her perspective. She has since left the educational world to focus on writing and travel. She is energetic and enthusiastic about long term travel, finding what makes you happy and making the leap. In her spare time she is an event planner, yogi, dark chocolate lover, and spends as much time as possible with her toes in the sand.

Check out her website at for more of her travel musings.