Reading Rainbow airs its final episode today (it already has in most timezones), ending a 26-year-long run on PBS. The show, which had made its last new episodes in 2006, surfaces fond memories for many young people who were inspired to read books by LeVar Burton and his crew of kid reviewers.
Twitter is abuzz with laments about the show’s passing, as well as urgings to turn it into a web show (see Twitter searches “Reading Rainbow” and “#savereadingrainbow“). Host Burton gave fans reason for hope with a Tweet of his own on Feb. 18,
Want y’all to know that I’m seriously moving forward with an idea for a new version of a Reading Rainbow like show. Webisodes for adults.
Continuing the kids show on public TV would require several hundred thousand dollars to renew the broadcast rights, according to a story on NPR today. The story blames the after effects of the Bush administration’s education policies, quoting WNED Buffalo’s John Grant:
Grant says the funding crunch is partially to blame, but the decision to end Reading Rainbow can also be traced to a shift in the philosophy of educational television programming. The change started with the Department of Education under the Bush administration, he explains, which wanted to see a much heavier focus on the basic tools of reading — like phonics and spelling.
Personally, one of the highlights of my life to date was when Burton spoke at my high school graduation, and ended his motivational address with his trademark “But you don’t have to take my word for it.” Then we all sang the “Butterfly in the sky” theme. For reals.
I wasn’t able to find official embeddable episodes on the PBS KIDS GO video portal, so part of a 1983 episode found on YouTube is above.