LeVar Burton Is Using Kickstarter to Bring Back Reading Rainbow


Drop everything: LeVar Burton wants to resurrect Reading Rainbow, and he wants it as universally available as possible. So this morning, he launched a Kickstarter, aiming to raise a million dollars to fund the development of a web version. That great swooshing sound you just heard was the entire Internet opening its wallets simultaneously.

To call Reading Rainbow a “fond childhood memory” for millennials doesn’t quite do the program justice. Twenty years later people still flip shit over it, because it was awesome. So much of school is about tests and quizzes and whether you’re doing it right; the point of Reading Rainbow was that books are awesome and improve your life. “Take a look! It’s in a book!” is vastly more appealing to the average 8-year-old than “It’s really important we do well on these standardized tests so we don’t get in trouble, OK, kids?”

But new episodes stopped in 2006, and reruns drew to a close in 2009. Kids have migrated en masse to the Internet, anyway. So two years ago Burton released a tablet version of Reading Rainbow, which offers the field trips you probably remember fondly, but kids can also read books or have actors read to them, the Verge explains.

As the Kickstarter campaign points out, though, there are a whole lot of kids without access to tablets. Wider reach requires a web-based version. There’ll be a subscription fee for access to Reading Rainbow‘s library of books, but it’ll be cheaper than buying an iPad. Burton also wants to create a new incarnation for the classroom, complete with resources for teachers. And he wants to provide that for free to the most cash-strapped schools; meeting the $1 million goal should allow them to put the program in 1,500 classrooms for free.

“You take advantage of where kids are. Back in the ’80s that was in front of the television set,” Burton told the Verge. “Today, you have to have access to the web. Universal access is really what this effort is all about.”

Plus, a $50 donation gets you a Reading Rainbow mug, which would probably make you the coolest person in the teacher’s lounge, and $400 gets you a voicemail message from LeVar Burton. Unclear whether he’s willing to sing the Reading Rainbow theme or repeat catchphrases from Star Trek: TNG. (If you are a TNG fan, by the way, be sure to watch the campaign video all the way to the end.) Some kindly Uncle Moneybags has already donated the $10,000 necessary for a school assembly.

Still available: a $10,000 package where you can take a photo or video while wearing Burton’s visor from Star Trek.

You won’t get a gadget for backing Reading Rainbow. But let’s face it: This is a vastly more worthy project than 99 percent of the nonsense that’s popped up on Kickstarter over the years. If you’ve ever reminisced about how much you loved the show as a kid, it’s time to put up or shut up.

Photo via Getty.

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