LeVar Burton revives ‘Reading Rainbow’ via Kickstarter campaign

Butterfly in the sky, LeVar Burton can go twice as high -- and then some.

On Wednesday, the actor and former host of “Reading Rainbow” launched a Kickstarter campaign to revive the long-running educational children’s program, a beloved mainstay on PBS from 1983 to 2009, as a 21st century interactive library for “every child, everywhere.”

Within 11 hours, Burton had reached his fundraising goal of $1 million and by late Thursday morning Pacific Time, had nearly doubled it, with a haul of over $1.85 million. The campaign still has 34 days left until it closes on July 2. (By comparison, it took Zach Braff three whole days to raise $2 million for his film, “Wish I Was Here.”)

Over the course of its run, “Reading Rainbow” won 26 Emmy Awards and remains beloved by millions of children who came of age in the ‘80s and ‘90s. The series featured animated sequences of children’s books narrated by celebrities like James Earl Jones, capsule reviews from young bookworms and Burton traveling to interesting and exotic locales. (It also had what may be one of the most indelible theme songs in television history, inspiring a recent spoof by Jimmy Fallon.) The last new episodes of the series were produced in 2006, and the program aired in reruns on PBS until 2009.

But as Burton explained via the “Reading Rainbow” Kickstarter page, the revived version of “Reading Rainbow” will be very new-media-focused. “When ‘Reading Rainbow’ began in 1983, we were using television to bring books to kids, meeting them where they wanted to be,” he said. “In 2014, TV is not that place anymore. Now, we’re trying to reach a new generation of digital natives.”


With that in mind, Burton has an ambitious plan for the revived “Reading Rainbow,” which has existed as an app for tablets since 2012, to make the entire digital collection available to Web-connected children anywhere and in classrooms across the country -- not simply those with iPads. Money raised by the campaign will also go toward production of new video field trips.

But, to borrow Burton’s catchphrase, you don’t have to take my word for it. You can read all about the new “Reading Rainbow” here.