Photograph: Katrina Wittkamp
PBS Kids star Lori Holton Nash and her children

This can’t be real, Lori Holton Nash thought when she read the post on Craig’s List. PBS, the ad said, was looking for a child-friendly actor/singer for a new show. So the 30-something mother of three wrote a song and headed to the local audition, where she made a rookie mistake. During a line about bending down and touching your toes, Nash did, and then realized, she says, “I just put my behind in front of the camera.”

PBS decided that Nash didn’t have a bad side-and that her persona resonated with both moms and kids in test audiences, says Lesli Rotenberg, senior vice president for PBS Kids Next Generation Media. Out of a 1,500-person national search, the Chinatown resident was chosen as the first-ever host for a two-hour block of children’s shows, which, starting in September, appears on the majority of the network’s 348 stations and on the PBS Web site. (In Chicago, the program runs weekdays from 8 to 10 a.m. on WTTW–Channel 11.)

A busy mom to Skyler, 8, Kaiann, 5, and Jaedyn, 3, Nash wasn’t looking for a job. She owns a start-up company, The C.A.M.P.U.S. Inc., which offers dance and drama classes to kids in the South Loop. She also helps her husband, Larry, with his personal training business. But for a performer with a lifelong love of kids, the lure was too strong.

A native of Wisconsin, Nash started acting at age nine with a role in The Music Man with Children’s Theater of Madison. She continued performing through high school and in community theatre in Milwaukee. Her parents, who adopted her as an infant, supported her dreams of being on the stage, she says. “My images of my mother are her sitting backstage, knitting and crocheting at every rehearsal.”

Besides the nod to her parents, the soon-to-be kids’ television star heaps credit on the TV show Sesame Street for showing her at a young age that adults could make a living entertaining. “At nine, it never occurs to you. Then you turn on the television and you see somebody tap dancing, you see somebody singing. That could be you.” In Nash’s world, now it is.