LeVar Burton has turned to Kickstarter to bring the beloved children's television show, Reading Rainbow, to a new generation.
From its debut in 1983 through its cancellation in 2006, Reading Rainbow made children’s books come alive through songs, celebrity narrations, and book reviews by kids. Maya Angelou, Bill Cosby, James Earl Jones, and Eartha Kitt and scores of other celebrities made appearances on the show. And everyone remembers the theme song:
The format was simple, but its impact was huge. Kids loved the books, and parents loved that their kids could learn even while watching television. Reading Rainbow became PBS’s third most popular show, right after Sesame Street and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. But the world was changing. By the mid-2000s, PBS was struggling and production of the show ended in 2005, with the final episode airing on November 10, 2006. The show continued in reruns for just a few years afterward before going silent.
But the love for Reading Rainbow stayed strong, and the need for a visually engaging platform for promoting reading remained. In 2012, the Reading Rainbow iPad app launched to great acclaim. Featuring a huge library of books with “read to me” or “read by myself” options, the app was a hit with pre-readers, new readers, and people hungry for the nostalgia who wanted to “take a look, it’s in a book.” It became the #1 educational app and won honors and awards across numerous categories.
Apparently LeVar Burton wasn’t ready to rest on the success of the app. He launched a Kickstarter seeking $1,000,000.00 in backing to bring back Reading Rainbow.
But in Burton’s new vision, Reading Rainbow isn’t just for kids sitting at home in front of the television. He suggests bringing Reading Rainbow into the modern era via the web but also by delivering it to classrooms for free.
If the first day of Burton’s Kickstarter campaign is indicative of anything, it’s that clearly the world is ready to help bring back Reading Rainbow: less than one day in, the campaign has already reached over 50% of its million dollar goal.
The Kickstarter campaign closes on July 2, 2014.
UPDATE – Levar Burton’s reaction to the funding success…
Images: Kickstarter, Woot