If you’ve been on the internet in the last forty-eight hours you may have heard of LeVar Burton’s recent and insanely successful campaign to bring the old TV favorite Reading Rainbow back to life. This time it will return as a free online service for schools rather than the television show so many saw and loved. Newspapers, of course, document the progress of recent news as well as more historical stories, and in the pages of Newspapers.com we see the journey of this beloved children’s show from start to close.
Reading Rainbow premiered in the summer of 1983 as a charming educational program that encouraged children to explore the magical world of literature. LeVar Burton had already gained some fame with his portrayal of Kunta Kinte on the drama series Roots when he jumped into the Reading Rainbow project as host and executive producer. The program featured
book readings by Burton and other celebrities over a backdrop of whimsical animation and historical scenery that tied in with the settings of the books. Burton brought diverse topics to the screen for his young audience, and children joined him on the show with reviews of books similar to the one featured in each episode to encourage further reading.
The show went on to air for an impressive twenty-six years, longer than any children’s show PBS had run before. It also won a slew of awards, including twenty-six Emmy Awards, and Burton himself was granted a dozen Emmy Awards as a host and a producer. But as with so many things, funding grew tight, and in 2003 Burton himself made a plea for contributions to keep the show running. It seems to have worked, but not for much longer. The summer of 2009 saw the last televised season of Reading Rainbow.
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2 thoughts on ““Take a Look, it’s in a Book!””
It is important to remember that while LeVar Burton was without question a wonderful asset to Reading Rainbow as the beloved on-screen host, it took a devoted team of wildly talented people–producers, writers, editors, animators, and many others–to create each show. Under the guidance of Lancit Media–the production company of Larry Lancit and Cecily Truett–we created the show along with Twila Ligget and the song writers/performers, Janet Weir and Steve Horelick, whose music made every show come to life.
LeVar came along once was a solid concept. He was wonderful to work with, understood and honored the message of the show–the importance of reading and books for children–and brought verve and enthusiasm to his role.
He was the perfect host and never complained, whether he had to spend a few days with an elephant with a head cold, pretend to love camping in the rain, or do any of the other preposterous things we wrote for him. He always performed his role with grace and a good sense of humor.
But please–do not forget the many, many people whose ideas and creative efforts kept the show alive for all those years of production–in itself, a kind of miracle. I’ve worked on a number of TV series for children–but the spirit and ethos of this production was unusual, especially when it was being created: the spark of creative thinking, the brain-storming, the respect shown at Lancit Media, especially in the early years, was quite unusual.
Let’s give credit where credit is due: LeVar couldn’t have given the wonderful performances he gave without solid, inspired back-up from the rest of the team.
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