...a Reading Rainbow!
Like most American kids growing up in the 80s, my family had a TV in our house that was on most evenings after school. In my house however, there was no cable. Ever. My parents were very diligent about monitoring what we watched and, this may come as a shock to some of you, but that meant no PeeWee’s Playhouse and no Simpsons - oh the horror!
What it did mean however was a lot of PBS.
There was Sesame Street, there was Mr. Rogers Neighborhood… do you remember Square One? By far one of my favorites.
And then there was Reading Rainbow.I knew every episode by heart. I could have taken LeVar Burton’s job with an instant’s notice – assuming I would only be reenacting existing episodes. As a kid I spent hours a week in the library, but my world of books and reading was only magnified by Reading Rainbow. I cannot imagine what life changing effect it had on kids who weren't as lucky as I was to have such a magical library just a short bike ride away.
Over the course of my childhood I'm sure I checked out every single book that was available for ages 0-14...twice. When my dad and I discovered that there were huge holes in the Nancy Drew offerings, we decided that our only option was to buy the missing books, read them cover to cover several times and then donate them so no other kid in my hometown would ever have to go through the nightmare of not having a full collection of Nancy Drew at their fingertips.
Here's a fun bit of history. Reading Rainbow started on my first birthday – June 6th 1983 – and ran until November of 2006 (23 years! Wow!) And although it is no longer on PBS, Reading Rainbow continues on through an app created by LeVar Burton. And in the future we can expect a web-based library of Reading Rainbow books and videos organized as a KickStarter Project by your friend and mine, LeVar Burton. Although the average Joe will have to pay for a subscription, the plan is that many underprivileged class rooms will have the option of a cost-free subscription. Once again, helping the kids who need it most. Read more about it here:
During this May's Children's Book Week celebrations, LeVar Burton was honored by the Children's Book Council with the Impact Award for children's literature.
"We are honored to present this year’s award to LeVar Burton in recognition of his longstanding commitment to connecting children and books and for promoting the joy of reading through the Reading Rainbow television series and the Reading Rainbow app". Much deserved, Congratulations Mr. Burton!
In one interview Burton says, "There is no system that can imprison you or dominate you with darkness or ignorance if you have the capacity to read..." That's so true, the more you know, the more questions you are able to ask and the more answers you are able to comprehend. Think back to the days pre-internet. What did you do when you had a question about something? Your options were Encyclopedia Britannica or the Library. Now you can Google anything from almost anywhere! I know I am a lot smarter now that I have Google in my back pocket all the time. There's so many crazy little facts that I never would have learned without Google. Did you know that a giraffe does not have a voice box?
Old McDonald Had a Farm E-I-E-I-O. and on that farm he had a giraffe with a .... and a.... here a.... there a.... everywhere a.... Silence. Complete silence.
Am I a better person because I have random fun facts in my head about giraffes? Probably not. But now let's relate the same idea to, well, anything else. Politics, health care, the legal system. The world would be such a better place if we could all read and more importantly, comprehend what we are reading. We could all argue and debate intelligently. We could make better informed decisions we could question authority with some intelligence. It's a REVOLUTION!!!
I'm getting a bit long winded, I'll wrap this up.
Congratulations to one of my role models, LeVar Burton. Your successes are much deserved.
Here's hoping another generation can be exposed to a new era of Reading Rainbow.