Friday, August 28, 2009

RIP Reading Rainbow

PBS officials just announced the end of an era, according to Reading Rainbow (1983), the beloved children's reading program, will be airing its final episodes at noon on Monday, August 31 after nearly 30 years of encouraging children to read.

For most children of my generation, Reading Rainbow was an after-school staple like Handisnacks and juice boxes. I, for one, was ecstatic whenever the theme song would begin, my little face lit up in a smile as if someone just shoved Lite-Brite pegs in my mouth (another fantastic and sadly dying pastime).

"Butterfly in the sky, I can go twice as high,Take a look, it's in a book." — Reading Rainbow

You know the one I mean. That rainbow swept across the screen and made me feel normal for being such a bookworm, even at such a young age. LeVar's adventures gave me confidence to keep turning the pages, to beg my mother to take me to the library yet again, to go through the little Scholastic Book Fair catologs with such determination that you'd think I was taking the SATs. I'm sure I'm not the only one.

NPR's Ben Calhoun spoke with John Grant, the man in charge of programming content for Reading Rainbow's home station WNED Buffalo, to find out just what happened ('Reading Rainbow' Reaches Its Final Chapter').

In a nutshell, "PBS, CPB and the Department of Education put significant funding toward programming that would teach kids how to read — but that's not what Reading Rainbow was trying to do."

"Reading Rainbow taught kids why to read," Grant says. "You know, the love
of reading — [the show] encouraged kids to pick up a book and to read."

At least Reading Rainbow will still be available to educators, so the groundbreaking show won't be completely forgotten. But it's a sad day either way when encouraging children to read is no longer relevent enough to the media to keep a legendary, educational program on the air. It seems the mentality is to just teach them how and send them on their way. They never have to pick up a book again!

Just Reach for the Rainbow, my friends. Reach for the Rainbow.

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