Friday, August 7, 2009

Reading Rainbow


Were you aware that reading allows you fly approximately two times as high as a butterfly in the sky? And that reading enables you to simultaneously be both anywhere and anything? Powerful stuff. Thankfully, as an avid watcher of Reading Rainbow, I was keyed in on this kind of insider literate knowledge. That mesmerizingly soothing theme song drew me in time after time:

Butterfly in the sky, I can go twice as high
Take a look, it's in a book - Reading Rainbow.

I can go anywhere!
Friends to know and ways to grow - Reading Rainbow.

I can be anything!
Take a look, it's in a book - Reading Rainbow.

Reading Rainbow, Reading Rainbow, Reading Rainbow, Reading Rainbow!




Hosted by LeVar Burton, Reading Rainbow was an educational children's television series created in the 80s to encourage elementary-age children to read. While initially a summer exploit, its popularity soon propelled it into a year-round venture. Reading Rainbow was a touchy-feely approach to children's book-learning, combating the evils of distracting adversarial forces of literature.

Like TV.

What's that you ask? Wasn't Reading Rainbow on TV? So what you're telling me is that kids were encouraged to watch TV as a measure to get them away from mindless television entertainment and into a cozy literate environment?

Yep. That's exactly what I'm telling you. Glad to see we're on the same page. Or in this case, channel.

Sure, it seems vaguely counter-intuitive, but Reading Rainbow was probably a welcome shift from the mind-numbing children's television entertainment that predominated the airwaves in the 80s and 90s. I suppose if parents were forced to choose a TV program to babysit their children, they may as well go with the lesser of two evils. At least the kid might get to see Billy Cosby reading an Arthur book in one of his trademark sweaters.


Everyone knows the best way to prove your love of reading children's books is to submerge yourself in them completely


Yes, Reading Rainbow featured a vast spectrum (insert groan here) of celebrity guest readers. Not just public television celebrities like Snuffleupagus or Lambchop, but real living, breathing celebrities that parents had actually heard of. People like Julia Child, James Earl Jones, Maya Angelou, Gilda Radner, and Richard Gere showed up to narrate a children's book, all in the name of child literacy. Admirable, no?

The show was more than just on-screen reading, though. Each episode generally reflected a single theme, featuring multiple books, children's reviews, and segments on issues like diversity, new experiences, self esteem, and most importantly, The Library. Reading Rainbow loved The Library. Like got-down-on-one-knee-and-proposed-to-pledge-eternal-love love. Every two minutes, we'd get another cheery plug for visiting our local library. God forbid any of us readers support the featured authors themselves by heading out to purchase the books.

Okay, okay, I admit I'm being a bit facetious. I love the library. It was one of my most favorite hangouts at a child. Actually, as a kid there's no way I would have noticed any TV show plugging anything. My favorite Saturday morning cartoons could have been surreptitiously selling me crack cocaine and I wouldn't have even an inkling that the show had been sponsored by the crack industry. I suppose there are worse things than a couple of relatively subtle nudges to go visit my local library. I retract my previous barb.


Reading Rainbow was more than adept at achieving its ultimate goal of encouraging children to read. It's format was simple, but it got results. Parents were pleased to see their kids getting excited about reading. Kids were pleased to see their parents excited about letting them watch TV. Everyone was a winner.

If your parents were either nerds or suckers for historical miniseries, they no doubt trusted deeply in the educational guidance of LeVar Burton. Known for his roles in both Star Trek: The Next Generation and Roots, Burton was a pretty credible source. That's not even counting his contributions to the planet as Kwame on Captain Planet. Oh, LeVar. Is there anything you can't teach?

If your parents did happen to be Trekkies, they were able to geek out with LeVar every now and then. In the segment below, he gives a behind the scenes look at the making of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Prepare to be beamed out of your minds:



Personally though, my favorite segment was usually the kids' very own book reviews, I am proud to present a short segment of a review, posted on YouTube by the star herself who no doubt now deeply regrets her choice in lenswear. But you don't have to take my word for it*:



Well, that's all we have for you today, kids. In the ever-wise words of Mr. Burton himself, I'll see you next time.**




*In the case that you were unaware, this was Mr. Burton's opening catchphrase prior to the children's reviews
**This was the closing catchphrase. I know, I know. My use of it in my own closing was pretty deep and symbolic. You don't have to tell me. Now it's off to enjoy my weekend after all of that deep-thinking about metaphorical reinterpretations. Oh yeah, and see you next time.

35 comments:

Mrs EyeCanSee said...

This was one of my faveorite shows as a kid. Sadly...I can still sing every word to the song. And now it will be stuck in my head for days....awesome!

Miss HoneyDew said...

Oh LeVar!!! I remember running home from school and plopping down to watch this. Yes, I was a dork.

ashley-cita said...

Reading Rainbow was so very fab. Kids these days have no idea what they're missing. ::weakly shakes cane:: Also, get off my lawn.

:-) Your blog makes me smile, even though I haven't been able to leave a comment in awhile.

Sunshinemeg said...

That poor girl probably will never wear glasses again. LMAO!

Moonjava said...

Wow, brings back memories, I used to watch this all the time when I was younger!

I would sing along :P

Lee said...

I personally didn't like this show. Everyone else did, but nto me. When it'd come on I'd change the channel, or bored-to-deathingly sit through it and just watch.

It was just so boring to me. And something about it made me just reallyyy dislike it. I don't know what. xD

Practically Perfect... said...

Oh I LOVED Reading Rainbow! It was one of my favorite shows :-)

ChinkyGirLMeL said...

Oh now this was something I didn't watch. I have no idea why... hehehehe...But still I remember my cousins watching this on a day to day basis

Valerie said...

I always wanted to be one of the kids at the end of the show. I would read books and practice my speech on them

and I loved babysitter's club.

Badass Geek said...

I always thought that the show kind of worked against himself.

Kristin said...

That song is going to be in my head the rest of the day. Wow, did my little sis love that show. I bet she'd still watch it.

Jay Amabile said...

I watched Reading Rainbow all the time. Imagine that? BOOK REVIEWS ON TV! Do kids even know what books are? lol I miss shows like this.

for the love of pictures said...

I loved Reading Rainbow and LeVar Burton so much :) He was excellent on that show and in Star Trek NG. I still catch myself humming the RR theme song every so often.

Thomas said...

Someone told me LeVar Burton was on some show called Star Trek: The Next Generation?

Katie said...

such a great show! i remember watching it at school!

Kristina said...

Loved it!

Lil' Woman said...

Loved that show.. might be the reason I love reading! :)

Hanako66 said...

omg LOVED this show...I still sing the song all the time!!!

Nessa said...

Where do you find this stuff?!! I LOoOved me some reading rainbow back in the day!! lol

LiLu said...

Reading this, I just realized I have no idea what LeVar looks like without his Star Trek thingy on.

Shoshanah said...

I used to love it when they would read book that I had at home. And I used to think it was so cool the guy was on Star Trek.

Young Mom/Wife said...

I LOVED Reading Rainbow as a kid. So sad it is no longer around. good stuff.

lovelila said...

Every now and then, I still break out into the Reading Rainbow theme song...

Melissa Blake said...

I LOVED that song soooo much! :)

Lauren From Texas said...

now I have the song stuck in my head and i AM NOT COMPLAINING.

floreta said...

YES! i LOVED this show and the cheesy theme song! there is actually a nonprofit here that helps encourage kids to read by reading to them one-on-one. it's a rad program. :)

Molly said...

OMG, you were Karen Brewer.

Legallyblondemel said...

Oh my Gawd, did I ever love this show with every ounce of my book nerd, library loving being. I can hear the intro music now!

Love you in all your cheesy glory, LeVar!

Just Playing Pretend said...

That picture of LaVar in the books really really creeped me out.

Carol said...

haha! awesome! Totally remember that show!

Laina said...

A. I think I've read that book...

B. I was just watching this. Like on actual television. Why was I just watching this? This is what I get for not sleeping.

ticc said...

reading rainbow among others was one of the shows i watched sometimes as a kid. movieing around a lot the only thing that stayed the same was family and tv so you can guess i watch'ed a lot of tv. sad to see the crap thats on now. tv stations that take good shows off the air or try to replace them with remakes or something they think will bring in more ratings because some one up the ladder had the Idea that they could bring in more ratings and just end up killing the show completely or bring a slow death witch either leads to the time slot being filled by bassmasters, geraldo show or corn of the month something ever one in the world knows no one will watch. well enuff ranting from me. o ya stay off my lawn!

Janna said...

The show just got canceled a few days ago. :(

iwantyoursass said...

I LOVE YOUR BLOG! I've wasted my entire morning, reading back through old posts and laughing my ass off. From Troop Beverly Hills to Reading Rainbow, I'm hooked!

melisehill said...

just out of curiosity, i looked up maegan wiebler on facebook, and i definitely found her .. and laughed.

Digg This!