Couple read on air for those who can't HOWARD COUNTY SENIORS

December 02, 1992|By Dolly Merritt | Dolly Merritt,Contributing Writer

When Agatha and Rowland Rider read their newspaper out loud, about 4,000 people listen.

The Columbia couple are among nearly 300 volunteers who comprise the Radio Reading Network of Maryland -- a non-profit group that broadcasts 24 hours a day, seven days a week through a closed-circuit channel from Baltimore. It is affiliated with WBJC-FM. Its programs are heard through most of the state by people with vision problems.

"We wanted to volunteer for something we could do together," said Mrs. Rider, 73, a former biochemistry researcher at the Johns Hopkins University who retired in 1986. Her 77-year-old husband retired from his teaching position at Johns Hopkins in 1981.

Five years ago, the couple discovered the 14-year-old network through a pamphlet at the Baltimore City Fair and inquired.

"I think we are relatively literate, and I knew we could read," Mr. Rider said. An audition required each to read some fiction and parts of the sports page to production manager Robert Lewis, who pronounced their voices "smooth," his most important criterion.

"We were home free after our audition. . . . We were told right away we had made it," Mr. Rider said. Ever since, the couple arrive every Wednesday at the studio to read from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

They divide The Sun into half-hour segments of national, international and local news, plus about 20 minutes of sports, features or editorials. The Riders take turns reading.

"We try to read what is on the first page because the editor probably feels that is more important; we then read the first page of the Maryland section and we hold the local news until last," Mr. Rider said.

In addition to live broadcasts, the twosome have also taped readings from books for use on the air.

Mrs. Rider admits that a cough or a giggle will occasionally erupt during a broadcast. When that happens, she or her husband -- each of whom is constantly keeping track while the other is reading -- can fill in.

"One time, I was reading an article in the Op-Ed page on New York's [Gov. Mario] Cuomo and it got kind of amusing and Aggie took over," Mr. Rider said.

But most of the time their reading over the air is uneventful. "Our goal is not to editorialize even though we may say, privately, 'that's a bunch of stuff,' " Mr. Rider said.

When the Riders aren't reading, they are doing.

Having lived in their apartment in Vantage House in Columbia for two years, the couple like to take walks around a nearby lake; they also like to travel.

In addition, Mr. and Mrs. Rider attend lectures at Johns Hopkins, concerts at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, and shows at Center Stage and the Morris Mechanic Theater in Baltimore.

"When you retire, you never get a day off," Mr. Rider said.

Radio Reading Network

* Hours: 24 hours a day

* Cost: $35 a year

* Information: 396-0990

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