Say it isn’t so LaVar Burton!
The beloved PBS television series, ‘Reading Rainbow’ will be going off the air after 26 years. It was the longest running children’s television series after ‘Sesame Street’ and ‘Mister Rogers.’
I’m justifiably crushed by this news. I attribute my love of reading to watching endless hours of ‘Reading Rainbow’ growing up, and I think that many other kids who grew up in the 80s and 90s feel the same. I mean, come on…who can’t sing its theme song? Who doesn’t remember classic lines like, “Don’t take my word for it?” Who wasn’t freaked out when you realized that LaVar Burton had a role on Star Trek?
The reasoning pisses me off even more. Apparently no one will put up the money to renew the show, which is partly due to financial problems at PBS. However, there have also been philosophical changes in the way public institutions approach reading: under the Bush administration, there was increased focus on teaching kids HOW to read. Phonics and the mechanics of reading have gained greater precedence since then, leaving shows like ‘Reading Rainbow’ behind. The show has always encouraged a love of reading, but assumed that its viewers could already read.
OK, I understand their reasoning, but I definitely don’t think its reason enough to take ‘Reading Rainbow’ off the air. Yes, we should be teaching kids how to read. But ‘Reading Rainbow’ showed you reading could be fun, which is just as important. Without shows like ‘Reading Rainbow,’ reading becomes just another skill set that kids gain before elementary school. But reading remains just that—a skill. Not a love, not a passion, not a habit preserved over a lifetime. I’m no education expert, and perhaps I’m being swayed by nostalgia, but this doesn’t bode well for me. RIP ‘Reading Rainbow.’