|“Butterfly in the sky
I can go twice as high,
Take a look,
It’s in a book,
A Reading Rainbow…”
Is there a kid alive who doesn’t like to hear a good story? Books can go anywhere, do anything, be anything, and Reading Rainbow knew it. With a warm, friendly host and a number of famous guest readers, the show began introducing children across the world to the best in children’s literature since 1983.
LeVar Burton hosted the program, introducing each book’s subject matter by taking the kids on a visit to some new an interesting place-the beach, a picnic, a National Park, a dam, to visit a Native American tribe, etc. Guests, both famous and lesser-known, would also drop by to add their expertise.
Regardless of the side attractions, the focus was always on reading the day’s book. The subjects were wide-everything from legends (Paul Bunyan) to paleontology (Digging Up Dinosaurs) to fairy tales (Rumpelstiltskin) to overcoming physical challenges (Silent Lotus) to history (Mummies Made in Egypt) to just plain fun (If You Give a Mouse a Cookie). The books were narrated by such well-known voices as Martin Short, Ossie Davis, Angela Bassett, Ed Asner, Patrick Stewart, Jane Pauley and many, many more.
Even after all the reading was done, Reading Rainbow went one step further. Besides offering simple life lessons gleaned from the stories, LeVar also pointed the kids toward other, similar books, hoping to create a lifetime love of reading and learning.
After nearly two decades on the air, Reading Rainbow has become a PBS institution, a favorite among kids, parents and teachers. The program takes its responsibility very seriously, helping kids discover and appreciate books in a variety of ways. Starting in 1995, the show’s creators began sponsoring an Annual Reading Rainbow Young Writers and Illustrators Contest, offering prizes and glory to young authors from Kindergarten through Third Grade. Both the contest and the show itself are still going strong, still bringing kids and books together, still helping young minds soar.