Kaboodling: Jones' kiddie show gets syndicated

Peter Jones is one of those lucky individuals who figured out early what he truly loves. Fortunately for both him and the kids he entertains, he's been able to shape that love into a career.

Jones is the producer, host, and man behind the quirky character voices on WTJU's Sunday afternoon children's program "Tell Us a Tale." With the help of regular cast member Jen Hoffman and live music from the Jan Smith Band, every week Jones puts together a two-hour radio story time that has enchanted area kids for years.

Formerly known as "Kid N' Kaboodle," "Tell Us a Tale" started doing a monthly live taping session at The Prism last November.

"That has elevated the show to a whole new level," says Jennifer Bryerton, managing editor of AlbemarleKids, a sponsor of the program. Bryerton says she and her three-year-old daughter, Abby, never miss an episode.

"Having the audience participation is great fun and adds a lot of energy," says Hoffman, the source of the program's female voices.

The comaraderie between Hoffman and Jones seems to help, says Hoffman. "We are great friends, and I think that rapport comes through with the audience," says Hoffman.

Recently, "Tell Us a Tale" went into syndication. As of September, a 30-minute segment of the show can also be heard on KXRJ in Russellville, Arkansas. By the end of the year, Jones expects to add two or three additional stations.

After finishing college in 1990, Jones, now 35, was trying to figure out what to do with himself. "I knew I didn't want to do my background, which was American government and Russian history," he says.

Jones was writing plays and experimenting with acting when he discovered storytelling in 1995. His love of performance, however, started 21 years earlier when he was apparently typecast in his first on-stage role in East Street Elementary School's 1974 production of "The Elves and the Shoemaker." Jones, as one of the elves, reportedly heard the applause and promptly stole the show with his spontaneous improvisation.

A bit of the elfin mischief still hovers around the edges of his professional, adult demeanor. As his many young fans know, his reserve disappears when he's performing.

"I think it's the Peter Pan thing," he admits. "When I'm with kids, I get to do things adults might find frivolous or inappropriate. Once I get to perform, the inner child in me gets to come out and play."

"He genuinely loves performing with kids," Bryerton says. "Not just for kids. He's like one of the kids."

Despite having no children of his own, Peter Jones has dedicated his life to sharing the rich, imaginative world of folk and fairy tales with modern young people. For that we can all be glad he decided he didn't want to grow up.