Famed actor LeVar Burton is reviving his beloved children’s television show Reading Rainbow back to life via the internet on the Kickstarter website. Burton, who shot to fame in his starring role portraying the captive African slave Kunta Kinte, in the record breaking mini-series Roots; later became the executive producer of Reading Rainbow which ran for 23 years from 1983 to 2006.
In a collaboration with the website Kickstarter, Burton embarked on a mission to raise 1 million dollars in 35 days to launch the new endeavor. Subsequently, he met his goal in an astounding 11 hours. A testament to the series’ cross-cultural popularity. In 2012 Burton launched an IPad version of Reading Rainbow, but also wanted to make it available to children who don’t have access to an IPad. Ergo, Kickstarter. With 56,000 backers; his mission is to utilize Reading Rainbow’s vast collection of books and introduce them to children via an interactive digital library. Kickstarter CEO Yancey Strickler was willing and excited to embrace the project.
To date the fund-raising efforts have raised 2.5 million dollars with more donations rolling in. Burton is obviously delighted over the success of his mission and his desire to bring the Reading Rainbow project into the minds, hearts, and hands of every child everywhere via the global access of the internet, as well as giving the product away to more impoverished schools.
Burton attributes the success of the fundraiser to its sheer nostalgic value; catering to the literal millions who grew up eating their proverbial peanut butter and jelly and watching Reading Rainbow. Burton notes that we’re living in a digital world today and that it’s necessary to take Reading Rainbow to this new and inevitable realm of interactive communications. With Burton bringing Reading Rainbow back via the Internet, a whole new generation can reap the benefits via today’s more contemporary learning tools. With over a third of today’s population owning IPads, he knew the app would be a successful route to take, and he’s just as certain about the Kickstarter venture. He’s moved by how often people come up to him to let him know how much Reading Rainbow was a part of their lives.
Burton hails from a household where education and community were ever-present. His love of words come from his mother. Burton’s mother was an English teacher and social worker by profession. She was his original inspiration, and he has always felt inclined to give back via teaching. Burton feels it’s paramount that we read in front of children as an interactive experience, as opposed to mere reading to them.
Burton, who also starred in Star Trek: The Next Generation, is also offering perks to backers who are donating $10,000 or more. Such perks would include having Burton speak at school assembly’s, as well as private sit-down dinners with Burton. Donations and award packages can be found on Kickstart.com. The pledge drive doesn’t end until July 2nd, so it’s not too late to give and lend a hand via your wallet to take part in Burton’s internet revival of Reading Rainbow.
By Janet Walters Levite