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This week, the good people at Reading Rainbow invited us to be a guest on their blog. They have great news to share! Although Reading Rainbow is not on television anymore, it has made the digital jump to the 21st century and is now available as an app for the iPad.
Children of the ’80s, ’90s, and 2000s often have fond memories of the television show Reading Rainbow. Many staff members here at Writer’s Relief credit LeVar Burton with their decision to turn their love of reading into a career.
With this iPad app, children can interact with their favorite books while they are reading them—but always in a way that is minimally distracting from the text. The app stays true to the core principles of the television show, but reaches kids on a personal, one-on-one level.
Here are what a few staff members have to say about Reading Rainbow!
JESS: Like a lot of people in my generation, I grew up watching Reading Rainbow. It’s safe to say, actually, that I was kind of obsessed (I even may have continued watching reruns well into high school). My mother was—and still is—a huge bookworm and made it a point to share her love of reading with us as soon as we were old enough to toddle around the local library. So I guess it was only a matter of time before I got hooked on a show that did nothing but explore the world and talk about books for a half hour straight.
Whether I was born with an inquisitive mind or Reading Rainbow taught me to ask questions about everything is hard to say, but I do know that the show and LeVar Burton himself helped me grow up with an open mind and heart. Much like Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, they fostered a sense of self-acceptance and curiosity in all of us, as well as a deep love of books, which has obviously lead me to working at Writer’s Relief.
I’ve actually gotten to meet LeVar twice as an adult, and both times—aside from shedding a few ecstatic, fangirly tears—I was struck with how incredibly warm-hearted and passionate he is about sharing books with future generations. Reading is fundamental in so many ways, whether it’s for entertainment, or a means of escape, or a way to bond with one’s family. The fact that Reading Rainbow is still around in some way is amazing, if only because it means that kids today get to grow up with books as companions and an awesome role model—just as I did.
JOE: I owe my love of reading and my commitment to writing to LeVar Burton and Reading Rainbow. From an early age I was captivated by the way in which LeVar presented reading: an enjoyable pastime that promotes a healthy mind and stimulates the imagination, transporting the reader to vast, undiscovered worlds. By immersing myself in books, I was able to escape the difficulties of my young life and experience a world that was my own creation. The simple joy of traveling from my bedroom to faraway lands stayed with me through my teen years and into adulthood. Realizing how much happiness reading had brought me, I decided to become a writer and begin a career in publishing to bring this happiness to others. And I owe all of my ambition, all of my love for reading, all of my appreciation for education, and all of my successes in life to the skills I learned while watching Reading Rainbow. To be able to read is to be able to learn, laugh, love, and teach others to do the same.
KRISTIN: I grew up being mentored by LeVar Burton and Reading Rainbow. My parents were very strict when it came to television privileges, and I was not allowed to waste my day in front of the TV. But I was always allowed to watch Reading Rainbow. When I got excited by particular stories, my mother would take me to buy those books at the local children’s bookstore, and we’d read those books as a family. LeVar’s poised, soothing persona made him the perfect child-friendly host, and his well-rounded, quality recommendations made my parents more than happy to indulge my book craze. With LeVar consistently recommending new and exciting reads, I was regularly pressing my mother to go to the bookstore. And because of that, my mom was always aware of the events they held like author readings and signings—I’ll never forget the excitement of meeting Eric Carle and having him sign my copy of Draw Me a Star. To this day, I would barely bat an eye at seeing a movie star pass me on the street. But an author from my childhood? Or LeVar Burton himself? They were (and are!) my gods.
Being the child of literature-loving parents, I’m sure I would have enjoyed books no matter what. But growing up with a show like Reading Rainbow—a constant source of new and inspiring books to learn about—transformed an interest into a passion. Instead of having my parents quietly read to me at night before bed, books were things to covet and devour, and reading became more active than passive. In a generation where visual distractions were constant and books could have become boring and static, Reading Rainbow gave books movement and life, and LeVar’s genuine excitement in presenting each one offered love by association. I was so convinced of this grown man’s passion for books (which was far more animated than my parents’ “What book should we read tonight?”), that I wanted to be a part of that excitement. And when you add the positive, uplifting theme song filled with hope and promise—that truly nurtured and enhanced my love of reading and turned it into my adult career. I couldn’t be more grateful.
MEG: I watched Reading Rainbow with my two sons. It was wonderful to have them exposed to this kind of entertainment at a young age. We live in a pretty diverse town but the material presented on Reading Rainbow was truly global. LeVar Burton presented the stories with such enthusiasm that, to this day, if my sons—now in their mid-twenties—see the actor in another role, they will wistfully recall those afternoons in the playroom watching and listening intently to LeVar.
SONIA: Reading Rainbow is right there with Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood as an early childhood staple in my house, and I definitely consider it one of my first introductions to the idea that reading is cool. Not only did I love it, but my parents still look back on it fondly as well; we were big into bedtime stories when my brother and I were growing up. My parents loved anything that got us into books, and helped with finding new things to read to us. Gila Monsters Meet You At The Airport, Feelings, Barn Dance!, Bea And Mr. Jones—just thinking about some of the books they featured brings a huge smile to my face.
Looking back on the show now as an adult, I have developed a new appreciation for it. One aspect of Reading Rainbow that I didn’t appreciate until recently was the diversity. Coming from an interracial background, I didn’t realize then how big a deal it was to feature stories from all different cultures and guests representing various ethnicities, let alone that the host was an African-American man. The dedication LeVar Burton has to encouraging literacy among children is absolutely inspiring, and I would like to thank him for all that he’s done for me.
Remember to check out our guest post on Reading Rainbow.