Reading & Literacy

‘Reading Rainbow’ Aims High With New Kickstarter Campaign

By Ross Brenneman — May 28, 2014 1 min read
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“Reading Rainbow,” with its infectious theme song and simple premise, became a powerhouse for teaching a love for books when it launched in the ‘80s.

Cancelled in 2006 after over two decades on air, the show has found new life as an app for tablets. Today, actor LeVar Burton, the show’s original host, launched a Kickstarter project looking to raise $1 million with which he hopes to expand the program’s reach.

The Reading Rainbow app costs nothing, but the content comes with a subscription cost: $9.99 per month or $29.99 for six months.

The Kickstarter funding would allow Burton’s company, RRKIDZ, to develop a version of the program for the Web, significantly expanding the number of families able to access it. In addition, the money would allow development of a specialized classroom version, which would purportedly be offered for free to teachers in low-income schools. (The campaign pledges this for at least 1,500 classrooms.)

“It’s a huge undertaking, and I can’t do it alone, nor frankly, should I have to,” Burton says in his Kickstarter video. “‘Reading Rainbow’ has always been made possible, as the saying goes, by viewers like you.”

Lofty though the goal may be, Burton has a natural charisma that should combine well with our collective love of TV nostalgia. (For instance: The “Veronica Mars” movie, based on the short-lived TV show, raised $5.7 million on Kickstarter.) And as added bonus, the first five people to shell out $10,000 will get to meet Burton for dinner and wear the visor he sported as Geordi La Forge on “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” Set your phasers to fun! There are also rewards specifically aimed at helping schools, including an assembly with Burton himself.

I, meanwhile, am still waiting for someone to bring back “Wishbone.” Such big imagination, on such a little pup ...

UPDATE (May 30, 2014): Talk about going twice as high: The Kickstarter campaign surged past $1 million in less than 24 hours, and now hovers just below $3 million. The campaign also released a video featuring Burton and his staff waiting as their initiative crossed the $1 million threshold. Things got a little emotional.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.