I was sad to hear Reading Rainbow, the third longest-running children’s series on PBS after Sesame Street and Mister Rogers aired its final episode on Friday, Aug. 28, 2009. For twenty-six years, Reading Rainbow has shared with a generation of children a love of reading. The show’s departure from PBS indicates a shift in the role of children’s programming to focus primarily on teaching kids how to read.
Reading Rainbow was all about getting kids to love reading and not so much about how to read–although I think these ideas build upon each other. Each episode featured a children’s book that inspired an adventure with the host LeVar Burton followed by children giving their own book reviews. At the end of each show viewers were left with a list of recommended books to check out from the local library.
In a recent NPR show. Linda Simensky, vice president for children’s programming at PBS, says that when Reading Rainbow was developed in the early 1980s, it was an era when the question was: “How do we get kids to read books?” Since then, she explains, research has shown that teaching the mechanics of reading should be the network’s priority.
I know PBS has a great line-up of other shows–and I plan to share a list of our favorites soon–I just wish there was still room for Reading Rainbow or a show just like it. I agree it’s important to teach kids how to read but I believe there is still a place for a show that shares the magic of reading.Â My kids adored this show, they watched it on PBS and checked out classic episodes from the local library. They looked forward to hearing new reads and the adventure of the day. The show reinforced the wonders of reading and storytelling, often leading my children to create their own adventures and tell their own stories. I applauded the show’s ability to foster a love of reading while making connections with a child’s everyday world.
LeVar Burton was engaging and genuine with both children and parents–a reading hero like him is not found everyday. We will miss him and the rainbow.