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LeVar Burton And “Reading Rainbow”: Questions Arise

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LeVar Burton has been all over the web in the past two days after seeing his Kickstarter campaign for a reboot of “Reading Rainbow” hit and surpass the $1 million goal within its first 24 hours of being up. Burton filmed the moment the numbers turned over to $1 million and recorded a teary message for all his backers, saying how overwhelmed he was by the response and promising that the campaign is crucial to launching a program that will help millions of children.

The classic show won’t be seeing a startup, however; Burton, who bought the rights to the name “Reading Rainbow”, plans to expand on a reading app from RRKidz that will enable teachers to utilize special tools in the classroom. And because it was taken off the air in 2009, some are wondering if the idea of a reboot is necessary.

“If Reading Rainbow is so epically popular, then why was the show cancelled to begin with? And now that it’s coming back — as a for-profit company, not a charity — is it really the best vehicle for teaching literacy to “millions of children”?” writes Caitlin Dewey of The Washington Post.

But the “Reading Rainbow” mobile app has been hugely successful, drawing on the upsurge in technology use among children and pre-teens to get them excited about reading, just like the old show did. The new web version will expand upon that for teachers and homeschoolers, and will include lesson plans and tools for progress tracking.

“I wanted to put in the hands of kids a library of books and videos, like the TV show did, all in the service of inspiring a love of literature and exploring the world — connecting the real world to the literature that kids are reading,” Burton said.

The joys of sharing a book with a child and opening up the world of reading to them are unlike any other, Burton says, and can have lasting rewards for them.

“There is nothing more powerful to me than that elemental experience of storytelling: being read to aloud, following along, seeing the story in the pictures and feeling it in your heart. It is really beautifully, brilliantly embodied in the sharing of a children’s book….If you are a reader, then you have the ability to educate yourself. When you have the ability to be a lifelong learner, there are no limits on what you can acquire in terms of knowledge and information. It represents the ultimate freedom of mankind.”

So far, the Kickstarter campaign has nearly reached $2 million in support and has 33 days to go.

Image via YouTube

LeVar Burton And “Reading Rainbow”: Questions Arise
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