For my generation there are very few shared memories. It would be safe, however, to say that just about every kid in my generation has strong memories with Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, and Reading Rainbow. Simply hearing the music for anyone of these shows will bring about a warm fuzzy feeling that is unparalleled. Fred Rogers passed away a few years back. This week, another era has come to an end. This week Reading Rainbow aired it’s last episode.
The PBS kids show “Reading Rainbow” began when I was two years old. I have really never known a time without the show. The show was hosted by LeVar Burton and is an iconic part of the memory of virtually anyone who grew up in the last 30 years. Even for a slow, apathetic reader such as myself, the show had the ability to capture my imagination and to inspire a connections with the books that it featured.
The end is bittersweet, however. The show is being canceled, not because LeVar wants to retire or for some other altruistic reason. The show is being canceled because no one wants to pay for it. According to the NPR article, PBS, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the station that produces the show all declined pay for the shows production. The decision is partly due to funding cuts enacted over the past number of years. It is also due to decisions made during the Bush administration as to what kinds of shows they wanted to promote. The decision was made to promote shows that taught kids how to read. The point of Reading Rainbow is to teach kids why to read. Reading Rainbow was intended to instill a love of Reading and Learning that went beyond the simple mechanics of reading.
As a nostalgic side note, LeVar Burton was also the star of the miniseries “Roots” and played Gordi LaForge on “Star Trek: the Next Generation” As I grew into my adolescence I became a fan of Star Trek and quickly gravitated to LeVar’s character. This crossover of roles led to my favorite Reading Rainbow episode ever where LeVar takes us on a behind the scenes tour of Star Trek. Thanks to the wonder of Youtube, the clip is now below.
Reading Rainbow was a significant cultural force. It’s existence and now demise, make me as nostalgic as a 28 year old can get. My only hope is that it comes out on DVD so that my kids will be able to watch it as well.