LeVar Burton Launches Kickstarter Campaign to Revive "Reading Rainbow"

LeVar Burton

On May 28 LeVar Burton launched a Kickstarter campaign to reintroduce Reading Rainbow, his acclaimed television show, to a new generation of children. He called his campaign "Bring Reading Rainbow Back for Every Child, Everywhere." Burton, who discussed the importance of literacy in his keynote address at Ashford University’s May 2013 commencement, is dedicated to fostering a love of reading in children.

“I believe that every child has a right and a need to be literate. We have a responsibility to prepare our children and, right now, the numbers show that we, as a society, are failing in that responsibility,” he said.

The original Reading Rainbow series aired on PBS from 1983 to 2006, with reruns airing until 2009, and featured educational programming for children aged three through nine. In 2011, Burton introduced RRKidz, a reading and exploration platform aimed at motivating kids to “experience literature via the digital devices they love,” offering hundreds of books through a subscription service. One year later, he revived the programming as an app for tablets that contains a digital collection of books and educational field trips. "When Reading Rainbow began in 1983, we were using television to bring books to kids, meeting them where they wanted to be," said Burton. "In 2014, TV is not that place anymore. Now, we’re trying to reach a new generation of digital natives.”

Through the Kickstarter campaign, Burton’s mission is to make the library available on more of the devices modern kids use to consume content. The project’s initial goal was to reach $1 million in 35 days. Amazingly, he accomplished that goal in less than 24 hours. Through the donations, Burton and his team are able to create a new, web-based version of Reading Rainbow and bring the programming to more than 1,500 classrooms at no cost to schools, an invaluable asset to early childhood education programs.

Since exceeding the original goal, they have raised their target to $5 million, which would bring the service to mobile phones, game consoles like XBOX and PlayStation, and set-top boxes like AppleTV and ROKU, as well as introducing the programming to more than 7,500 classrooms.

“Our goal is to cultivate a love of reading in all children, not just those that have tablets. To reach kids everywhere, we need to be everywhere: we need to be on the web, on mobile devices, on game consoles, and on connected televisions,” he said.

When the project concluded on July 2, they had raised over $5.4 million. All of the money raised will go toward making Reading Rainbow accessible on as many platforms and devices as possible, providing free subscriptions to US and Canadian classrooms that can't afford it.

“As of 2011, America was the only free-market country where the current generation was less well educated than the one before,” said Burton. “Real change will require us all to work together. We cannot afford to lose generations of children to illiteracy.”

Reading Rainbow won five Emmy Awards during its run. In addition to his work with Reading Rainbow, Burton held a lead role in the television miniseries Roots and became a household name for science-fiction fans as a star of the series Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Written by Lauren Miller

Lauren works as a Communications Specialist in the Public Relations department at Bridgepoint Education.

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