Friday, August 28, 2009

The Sad Ending of Reading Rainbow

My thirty one year old son, who is the founder of The Millions, a literary website, sent me an email lamenting that PBS has canceled Reading Rainbow after 26 years. As a child his love of reading and writing were sparked by weekly trips to the public library and also by watching Reading Rainbow, a show that introduced books and created excitement around those books. With LeVar Burton leading the way each episode escorted young viewers on a new adventure that took them into a different book. The show linked language to visualization and imagination! In recent years the show developed a wonderful companion website that includes an alphabetized list of book reviews, resources for parents and teachers, a young writers contest and other interesting and useful tools for teaching and learning about books.

At a time when one out of every seven adults in the US has low literacy skills and the National Council on Teachers of English Standards for the English Language Arts reflect that in order to be a fully participating member of society and the workplace citizens will need ever more powerful literacy abilities that currently escape a large majority of the US population, it is TRAGIC that Reading Rainbow is going off the air. Even though Reading Rainbow garnered twenty four Emmy awards, the network cites lack of funding as causing its demise. I am perplexed by this decision, let me see... Antiques Road Show or Reading Rainbow? What grandma's vase is worth or inspiring a child to read? Apples and oranges. But it seem that the oranges have a more compelling reason to carry on! In PBS's own words "its [Reading Rainbow's] intent was to send children to libraries looking for information about the high interest topics presented. In its 20-plus years of existence and 150 programs, Reading Rainbow has managed to maintain these goals yet become one of the top-rated television programs in classrooms for instructional purposes"(PBS 2005). Why pull the plug on a winner, why take away a show that had a positive influence on school aged children?

If you would like to see Reading Rainbow resurrected, here is a link to find your local PBS contact information
Please join me in writing, calling and emailing to let PBS know that inspiring a love of reading in young people is priceless!

For those who may not know Reading Rainbow you can view a clip from the first program in 1983 at

Entry dedicated to C. Max Magee.