LeVar Burton’s Reading Rainbow raises $1 million in 11 hours

LeVar Burton brought Reading Rainbow to children at the L.A. Times Festival of Books in April 2014.
(Bret Hartman / For The Times)

LeVar Burton put out a call for “Reading Rainbow” funding on Kickstarter on Wednesday morning with about five weeks to reach its goal. But less than 11 hours later, donations had exceeded it, totaling more than $1 million.

It was a resounding endorsement for Burton’s work in getting kids excited about reading.

Burton, of course, is the actor who had starring roles in “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and the 1970s miniseries “Roots.” On “Reading Rainbow” he was the star and also executive producer; the program ran on on PBS television stations from 1983 to 2006.

“Reading Rainbow” sought to ignite a love of reading using the delights of television -- music, animation, taking the camera to exciting places. The show won more than 200 awards, including 26 Emmys.


In 2012, when he was finally able to secure rights to the program, Burton brought it back as an app for tablets. It combines parts of the old show with the new interactivity of tablets, an update of the original idea of using a technology kids embrace to excite them about the process and possibilities of reading.

The Kickstarter funds will support a three-part effort to bring “Reading Rainbow” to kids it doesn’t yet reach. He plans to build a web version and a subscription classroom component. With the money raised, “Reading Rainbow” will go to 1,500 classrooms in need for free.

As of 7 p.m. Wednesday the campaign, which can remain online until July 2, had raised more than $1.2 million. Three donors contributed more than $10,000 to receive the perk of a school assembly with Burton, a meet-and-greet and a subscription to the classroom version of “Reading Rainbow.”

As testimony to how much people love “Reading Rainbow”: More than 5,000 people contributed $5-$10; more than 7,000 gave $50 or more to receive a “Reading Rainbow” T-shirt, mug, or tote bag (for books).