Reading Rainbow to Foster Joy of Reading in Children Through Modern Technology
8 years after being canceled following a 21 season run from 1983 through 2006, the multiple Peabody and Emmy-award winning series Reading Rainbow has been resurrected in a new, digital form, but with the same staunch mission in mind: to open children’s eyes to the wonders of reading, and the importance of being literate and a lifelong reader.
The comeback for Reading Rainbow started in 2012, when the show’s long-running host and executive producer Levar Burton (also of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Roots fame) and his production company RRKidz launched a Reading Rainbow app that gave children access to an unlimited amount of books and granted them rewards for reading. The app also included video content of field trips hosted by Burton.
Earlier this year, Burton launched a Kickstarter campaign to help bring the app (which normally charges $10 monthly for full access of its content) to underprivileged schools across the U.S, where it will be provided for free. The campaign also sought to raise money to help make the app more widely available through various platforms (such as video game consoles, Android, and set-top boxes like Roku), and to expand on the content offered through the app. They knew the importance of reaching children through those devices they're already using, and that was one of their prime objectives.
The Kickstarter campaign, which closed on July 2, was an overwhelming success, with a record 105,857 backers pledging over $5 million to the project. That will allow the RR team to make the app freely available through year-long subscriptions to 7500 classrooms. They also plan to help teachers incorporate RR into their class activities through weekly content provided free of charge to teachers.
For Burton, the ideal of promoting the importance of reading comes from his own belief in the medium, which was fostered by his mother at an early age. A teacher herself, she stressed that reading was essential in being able to educate oneself, and be an informed citizen. It also has an undeniably positive impact on creativity and critical thinking, as well as being enjoyable in its own right.
The revival of Reading Rainbow comes at an important time for the U.S in particular. Literacy rates among children have started to fall in recent years, and the United States is currently the only one out of the 34 countries in the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) whose current generation is less well-educated than the previous one.