Reading Rainbow (1983– )
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Each episode had a particular theme such as teaching kids about different occuptaions or perhaps places. The show's charismatic host, LaVar Burton might travel to a factory to show kids how cheese is made, or play co-pilot in an airplane. So, each episode, provided something different about the world and the people in it to kids, giving them a very diversified and educational show. Additionally, the show would end with suggested reading for people interested in the show's themes. And these books were usually presented with a brief review from kids. I remember our library even had a section of books that had appeared on Reading Rainbow.
LaVar Burton's educational journeys were not the only part of the show. They also read a book during each episode, which was read either by Mr. Burton or by some celebrity reader (I remember James Earl Jones read one of my favorite books about a young African boy who was a rainmaker, though the name escapes me), and they displayed the pictures on the screen. I think they displayed it with the words so you could read along, but I don't remember. I know it wasn't like watching a storyteller sit and read the book to a bunch of kids and showing them the book. You actually got to see the book yourself while the voice was dubbed along. It was a good show that encouraged reading and interest in a whole lot of things. Then again, PBS had a lot of shows like that at the time--Math Net (a take on Dragnet in which the detectives used math to solve each mystery); Square One (a variety educational program); 3-2-1 Contact (which I don't remember much, except for the name); and so forth.
If they don't run the reruns or if Reading Rainbow has retired long ago, I wish that they would try to get kids interested in that again. It did more than just trying to encourage kids to read, it tried to teach them about a lot of different things. I still remember the show that took you inside of a macaroni manufacturing plant and a crayon manufacturing plant. It was cool.
Levar does a nice job of imparting important virtues to kids - RESPECT for creativity and craft, your elders, the environment... what more could you ask for, in an age when parents take NO responsibility for raising kids and kids have no respect even for human life??
As far as the books reviewed, I can't vouch for this, but I've always left with a good, warm feeling about people every time I watch this show, (and I usually feel like heaving when I see the other crap on tv).
I say, 'KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!!'
I remember watching it in school sometimes and I LOVED it. Lavar Burton is an awesome host. Hosting the same show for so many years shows his dedication to literacy among children. Each show taught you about a few different books. I even remember the theme song and does my 16-year-old brother. I haven't seen it in years though. For some odd reason PBS doesn't are it in the Atlanta area. I highly recommend this show for parents now. "Reading Rainbow" is a rare show that is educational and entertaining. If it were still aired here, this is one 22-year-old that would still watch it!
I think my favorite of all the episodes would be visiting LeVar's other workplace - the set of Star Trek TNG in its first season. It was one of the first times that they actually showed how they did all the special effects (I only wish that they waited a couple more seasons to make this episode because they might've had some Borg makeup). Now, with DVDs, this episode is pointless, but I still don't care.
On a personal note, one of my friends briefly appeared in an episode. He was 6 (like me) at the time. It was the episode of the Library of Congress and he and his mom are seen running up the stairs. He told me that if he knew better, he would've gone over to LeVar because he would've met Geordi LaForge (but this was a year before TNG even started and there are still ST conventions). Yeah, we are both geeks at heart.
If your child needs a show to watch, take it from me, a 17 year old boy: Get them away from those violent TV shows where they won't learn a thing, get them to watch Reading Rainbow. They'll thank you in the latter years...I have.
The authors who create such magnificent literature for the youngsters today are to be commended! The illustrators bring such light and color to each story that the story becomes real before your eyes! The celebrity readers bring the authors' stories to life and open up new vistas for children.
Levar Burton seems to really enjoy visiting new places and trying new things; he's the original and continuing host. Find it on a local PBS station near you and watch the magic!