This may very well be old news, but in case you haven’t heard, LeVar Burton is re-launching Reading Rainbow. It’s highly possible that I can trace my becoming a bibliophile to shows like Reading Rainbow and programs like Reading is Fundamental that existed when I was in elementary school.
Reading Rainbow started in June 1983 and ran on PBS until November 2006. In 2012, an interactive reading and video field trip app was launched for iPad and Kindle Fire.1 While I’ve often attributed my love of reading to my discovery of the game Dungeons & Dragons, it was Reading Rainbow that help start my love for books (ok, so it took me a little bit of time to go from loving the books to loving the contents as well, but whatever).
Even though I’m blogging about this a bit late, that certainly doesn’t lessen its importance. Mr. Burton set a Kickstarter goal of $1 Million USD by July 2; they did it in 24 hours! Within 48 hours they were already up to $2 million. Who knows how much higher that will climb by the time the campaign ends on July 2? An acquaintance and former co-worker of mine said he had never seen a Kickstarter act like this before – well, that would probably be because it’s a worthy and noble cause that deserves the money instead of someone trying to get the internet to pay for their business startup.
I’m really excited to see Reading Rainbow make a comeback. I don’t have a child of my own, but I am a very proud uncle of a niece who already loves to read and reads two grade levels above her age. I want her, and her cousins and friends to have a show like this to grow up with like I did and bolster a love for reading and learning. I want real life people to have more scenes like this one from The Princess Bride:
The Grandson: A book?
Grandpa: That’s right. When I was your age, television was called books. And this is a special book. It was the book my father used to read to me when I was sick, and I used to read it to your father. And today I’m gonna read it to you.
The Grandson: Has it got any sports in it?
Grandpa: Are you kidding? Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles…2
And of course, by the end of the film, the Grandson loved the book so much he wanted Grandpa to come back and read it to him again the next day.
The problem now is, we have the internet:
Jay: What the fuck is the Internet?
Holden: The Internet is a communication tool used the world over where people can come together to bitch about movies and share pornography with one another.3
We need less of that and more of what LeVar Burton is trying to accomplish with the Reading Rainbow re-launching as a web based media. We have a world of knowledge at our finger tips, and we use it to post cat pictures, porn and generally bitch about things on social media. As has been said, we have smartphones and dumb people. We need Reading Rainbow and the like to help prevent the movie Idiocracy from becoming a prophecy of our future. Star Trek: The Next Generation (and yes, that is a nod to the fact that LeVar Burton played Chief Engineer Geordie Laforge on that show) regularly showed Captain Picard in his Ready Room reading a book; that’s the kind of future we should be striving for, the one where technology enhances our knowledge and understanding, not causes us to say things like “too long, didn’t read” because we’ve developed short attention spans.
I don’t know about you, but I’m going to head over to the Kickstarter page for this, and make a pledge. You should too, if you care about education for this and future generations. By the way, the minimum pledge is only $1; even a dollar can help because all those dollars add up.