Thursday, September 03, 2009

Take a Look, It's in a Book...

Butterfly in the sky...
I can fly twice as high...
Take a look...
It's in a book...
Reading Rainbow!

Anyone else remember that show? For over 26 years, LeVar Burton hosted PBS' children's literacy show, Reading Rainbow.

I used to watch it religiously when I was little. I credit it -- and Sesame Street, of course -- as being instrumental in my love of reading.

In fact, I loved Reading Rainbow so much that I even auditioned to be in one of the on-air book report segments at the end of the show. I still remember my mom picking me up early from school to take the bus into The City (yes, it's capitalized, because I'm referring to NYC) for the audition.

Alas, I didn't get it. :( The first of many rejections for me in the publishing world, unfortunately. But it didn't make me love the show, or books, any less.

Reading Rainbow came to the end of its 26-year run last Friday, after winning mroe than two dozen Emmys. It was the third longest running children's show in PBS history. Only Sesame Street and Mister Rogers beat it out.

In explaining why the show ended, John Grant, who is in charge of content at Reading Rainbow's home station WNED, explained that there's been a shift in educational TV programming philosophy, starting with the Department of Education under the recent Bush administration (had to put that "recent" in there, because Reading Rainbow outlived both Bush Sr. and Jr.'s administrations).

The Department of Education wanted to see a heavier emphasis on the basic tools of reading, such as phonics or spelling. PBS, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and the Department of Education put significant funding towards programming that teaches kids how to read.

Reading Rainbow, on the other hand, taught kids why to read.

So I think it's sad to see a show focused on the sheer joy of reading end. My hope is that kids today will continue to learn the joy of books, and not just read because they have to.


  1. It makes me sad to see this show go. I used to LOVE it too!!

  2. I vaguely remember this show. We weren't allowed to watch that much tv, educational or not.

  3. I have never even heard of this show. I don't remember my kids ever watching it either. Of course, they were more Nick Jr. than PBS.

  4. Amanda Brice3:18 PM

    It was fabulous. Every episode, they had a celebrity do a dramatization/voiceover/narrative reading of a book (they showed the pages of the book on screen while the celebrity was doing the voices for the characters), then Levar Burton would go off on some kind of real-life adventure inspired by the story that was just read. Then he might interview the author, or someone who works in the field (for exmaple, if it's a story that takes place at the zoo, he'll interview a zoo keeper).

    Then the episode ended with 2 or 3 book review segments taped by actual children, where they recommnded their favorite books.

    It was incredibly low-tech and awesome. Probably another reason why it's no longer on the air.

    But what made it cool was that it taught you WHY you should love books...not merely how to read.

  5. Oh, I LOVED reading rainbow. You're right -- it taught kids WHY to read, which is usually one reason why they don't. Take some of the Twilight fans, for example -- some had never read many books until they found a book they liked. Caused them to search for more.

  6. Jennifer Russell6:11 PM

    I loved this show! My siblings & I never missed it. We would usually follow it with a trip to the library - either at school or the local public library - to find one of the books featured on the show. Like Amanda said, it was low tech . . . but still awesome . . . and will be missed.