Fondly remembered by generations of children – many of them now parents themselves – Reading Rainbow was a television series hosted by actor LeVar Burton. Running on PBS from 1983 to 2006, the program promoted an enthusiasm for reading and urged children to pick up books. After the program’s cancellation (ironically, due to a lack of funding), Burton bought the rights to the show, and incorporated it as a for-profit venture.
LeVar Burton, probably best known to anyone who was or had a child during the 1980′s and ’90′s as the host of Reading Rainbow, launched a campaign on the Kickstarter website, through which anyone can ask for donations from the public for a particular project or cause. As part of the campaign, Burton has promised that he would allow teachers free access to the programming (private viewers would have to pay for it, however). In his campaign, Burton asked for a steep $1 million in a month.
He received over $2 million…in one day.
Some have criticized Burton’s Kickstarter campaign, as it is not aimed at bringing Rainbow back to PBS, but to helping his own company. “Crowdfunding is theoretically supposed to bolster charities, start-ups, independent artists, small-business owners and other projects that actually need the financial support of the masses to succeed. It’s not supposed to be co-opted by companies with profit motives and private investors of their own,” notes Washington Post analyst Caitlin Dewey.
Undoubtedly, nostalgia on the part of many young parents (who themselves grew up watching Reading Rainbow) played a large part in the project’s success. Burton’s campaign has now promised that, if it receives $5 million, it will make Rainbow available to cell phone systems like Android as well.
But whatever the motives of Burton or his donors, it is clear that the overwhelming response to the campaign also speaks to a hunger for positive children’s programming by parents. In a world where children’s media is dominated by thinly-veiled advertising for toys, shoes, and clothing, and where even the most graphic serial killer dramas are rated appropriate for 14-year-olds, it is no wonder parents are desperate for a fun, safe, and educational program for their children.
The PTC applauds any attempt to bring such programming to more children. (As pictured above, Burton received the PTC Seal of Approval® for his children’s program The Tadpole Club in 2005.)
To learn more about the Reading Rainbow Kickstarter campaign, click here.