William Shatner’s hit web video series, Brown Bag Wine Tasting, has had several great guests from a wide variety of backgrounds, including celebrity chef Alton Brown, as well as a butcher, a magician, a marijuana dealer, a cosplayer, a cosmetic surgeon, and now an educator.
And that is how Shatner’s latest guest, Star Trek’s Levar Burton, is represented, as an educator. His involvement with Reading Rainbow is discussed much more than his involvement with Star Trek.
Shatner and Burton sat down with the usual setup of the series, a bottle of wine that neither of them had seen, which is brown-bagged. They discuss whatever Shatner wants to discuss, and drink the wine as they do. With no preconceived notion about what the wine is supposed to be like, they experience it within the context of their discussion.
In this case, Shatner asks Burton to describe the wine to him as though it were a child Burton might encounter in one of his charities.
Their discussion turned to Burton’s background, the help his mother gave him growing up, the absence of his father, and so on.
Regarding his involvement with reading education for children, Burton revealed that it was due to his mother that he jumped into that field.
“I grew up in a house where reading was mandatory,” he said. "My mother was a teacher before she was a social worker. My mom moved from the Midwest to California because she knew that a better quality of education was available for her kids.”
And he revealed the idea that launched Reading Rainbow.
“Reading Rainbow was originally created to address what teachers call the 'summer slide', when a child is learning how to read, when they’re cracking the code, and they go on a summer vacation, and their reading comprehension skills plummet. This idea was presented to me to use really this powerful television technology to meet them where they are, and take them where we wanted them to go.”
Now that Reading Rainbow is online and available as an app, Burton says this is his “life’s work.”
“I’ve just extended and reinvented the brand to apply to kids in the modern era,” he said. "We are very proud of the fact that what we are offering to kids is the opportunity find literature that they want to read based on what they are interested in.”