End of the Rainbow

After 26 years, Reading Rainbow is coming to an end, reports NPR.  Funders aren’t willing to pay to teach kids to love reading. They’re focusing on how to read.

Each episode of Reading Rainbow had the same basic elements: There was a featured children’s book that inspired an adventure with Burton. Then, at the end of every show, kids gave their own book reviews, always prefaced by (Levar) Burton’s trademark line: “But you don’t have to take my word for it …”

LeVar Burton, host of 'Reading Rainbow'

GPN/Nebraska ETV Network and WNED Buffalo.

Amy Fagan was a big fan of Reading Rainbow, she writes on Flypaper.
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  1. I’m sad about what this means for educating children. While I was a little too old to watch Reading Rainbow when I was younger, it was a show that kids I babysat would watch. It seems to me there are plenty of programs that aim to teach kids basic reading, but why would they pick up a book if they can’t see what fun they can have? Who would bother to learn to read if there didn’t seem to be a purpose or joy in it?

    It’s like some of my friends who are amazed at the amount of time my children spend reading. At my house, books are everywhere (watch your step!). At their houses, they have shelves full of workbooks that supposedly teach kids how to read, loads of videos for the same purpose, but few books. Now what seems more fun? My kids are not geniuses by any means and I am only an average parent, but they think reading is a fun thing to do. I think Reading Rainbow filled the same spot in the TV lineup that the actual books do in my home. I hope someone comes in at the last minute to save it.

  2. I was all of 11 when RR began and my mother – a middle and high school librarian – sat me down to watch its premier episode. It was a little young for me even then, but I did like it. I used to practice book summaries a la RR style in my room. I learned to summarize well, because I figured out how long each child had to talk about their book and what needed to be said to hook the audience.

    Lately they’ve been running RR on my local PBS channel, and I’m finding it much more charming now than I did then. Burton, in my opinion, did a great job talking to children without talking down to them too often. He got better as the series progressed.

    I think I was lucky in already knowing how to read well and being a voracious reader. It’s disappointing to see it won’t be continued because our greater concern now is HOW to read.

  3. I guess promoting an enjoyment of reading is not amongst one of the country’s priorities for learning. Which is pathetic.

  4. Bill Leonard says:

    I was never impressed with Reading Rainbow, Sesame Street, or much of anything else offered on PBS. My sense: They’re nice, but so what? They mostly teach kids to be good TV watchers.

    I grew up in the late ’40s through the late ’50s. We had radio; later, we had TV, although in central Iowa, it was quite limited in the early days. And in my case, parents who read, and who read to me (no, they were not college graduates; my dad was a high school dropout. But they seemed to know what was important. It certainly was important to them — and later, to me.)

    By the time my kids were watching the likes of Sesame Street and perhaps the first year of Reading Rainbow, the whole thing was irrelevant. By then we had long since been reading to our kids from our own kids’ books.

    And I tell you, there is nothing the politically correct stuff on Reading Rainbow offered that could match what early editions of Treasure Island could offer for boys
    …but of course, people got klled to advance the plot, and terrible things like that…

  5. My kids used to watch RR, but I had no idea it was still being filmed. Our PBS station showed the same 15 or so episodes over and over. We stopped watching because of all the repeats. It was pretty good as kids’ TV shows go, though I doubt it had any effect on my kids’ enjoyment of books.

  6. Interesting article from NPR re: teaching children to read via television:

    Children’s TV Helps But Can’t Teach Reading Alone : NPR http://bit.ly/14GrRU

  7. I watched RR when it first came out, and my kids love borrowing the DVD’s from our local library (we don’t have cable/satellite and get no broadcast reception). I really like how the show has virtual “field trips” that tie in to the featured story. Not every kid can visit the Boston Museum of Fine Arts to see its Ancient Egypt collection in person, but every kid can watch the RR episode where LeVar goes there.

  8. Deirdre Mundy says:

    I loved RR as a kid, but frankly, it’s very dated and not that good.

    At the time, a video storybook was a novel idea. Now any kid with a DVD player or Computer can have one. (Scholastic has some of them out on Video.)

    Also, the show’s format only appealed to kids who ALREADY liked books. And the books covered were mostly picture books– so the show skewed too young for the kids who REALLY need to learn about the joy of reading.

    Meanwhile, “Between the Lions” mixes phonics, vocabulary AND love of books. Word World is a great phonics tool. Super Y, Martha Speaks and Word Girl all have bookish themes.

    What we really need is something to reach out to MG and YA readers so that THEY know what great books are out there. Older kids don’t get regular read-alouds at school like the little ones do, and their parents don’t take them to the library as much. Those are the kids we need to target with ‘love of reading.’ (Of course, they don’t watch PBS either. Maybe a Wii channel?)


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