Last Sunday’s PARADE magazine cover story featured LeVar Burton and the “Reading Revolution” he hopes to create for a new generation of children. While I didn’t get a chance to donate to his wildly successful Kickstarter campaign – it topped Veronica Mars with having the most backers, if not receiving the most money too – the article has kept me thinking all week about the impact the original television show had on my life and how much I love to read.
A child of the 1980s and 1990s who didn’t grow up with cable, public television and Reading Rainbow were staples in our house. I can still clearly remember the opening credits of the show, as well as the iconic ditty (“Butterfly in the sky, I can go twice as high…”). Though I was already a voracious reader, the show reminded me that I was not the only one out there (very important for a budding geekynerdy girl!) and I always dreamed about being featured during the recommendations section at the end of the episodes. It was also a little thrilling when people mentioned books I had already read, like Tomie dePaola’s The Legend of the Blue Bonnet.
But more than the books, it was the segments that went with them that have stuck with me over the years. In particular, I can typically see both images in an optical illusion thanks to the episode, Opt: An Illusionary Tale. And who could forget the over-the-top parrot jacket Burton wore at the end of The Purple Coat?! That episode also featured one of my favorite sculptures – the papier-mâchéfigure of a man who happened to inadvertently spray paint himself in the eye. I think it really says something about the quality of the show that these things are still touchstones for me, two decades after I first saw them.
With everyone talking about how dire children’s reading levels are these days – and believe me, they are pretty bad – I am so thrilled that Burton’s Kickstarter campaign went as well as it did! It also reminded me that I really want to be a part of bringing the enjoyment of reading to other people, whether through working at a library or a bookstore, or a major publishing house (or maybe Reading Rainbow?). Reading is just so great for fostering dreams and imaginations, as well as increasing one’s comprehension and vocabulary.
So this summer, regardless of your age, I encourage you to take a look, it’s in a book… a reading rainbow!