I was a fan of Reading Rainbow from the very beginning — at least, from the time I could remember.
The show actually started three years before I was born, but I remember watching Reading Rainbow at the same developmental stage at which I was watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.
Perhaps I am dating myself as a child of the ’80s, but I can’t imagine a childhood without LeVar Burton reading to me. And I don’t believe for a moment that I am alone in this.
I remember Reading Rainbow came on right before my naptime, which was just fine by my 3- and 4-year-old selves. I remember begging my mother to allow me to stay up half an hour later in order to watch it when the time slot changed.
The show was colorful — and so was Burton. Back in the day, he wore brightly colored clothing on the show, and the animations were reminiscent of a Highlights magazine.
His clothing changed with the times, but the other elements of the show remained the same.
Burton took us on adventures in reading, to places we only could see on the television. When he read, music and animation depicted his words.
There even were segments in which kids my own age — or maybe a little older — were interviewed about their favorite books or the topic that had been chosen for that episode.
Reading Rainbow shaped the way I read. For years, when I read books, I would create pictures in my head of the characters.
My hope is that my love of reading and the imagination Burton helped to foster in my young mind never change, even though Reading Rainbow went off the air in 2006 — years after I had stopped watching the show, entered school, graduated and gone to college.
It saddens me to know there are generations that will not grow up watching Reading Rainbow.
But it saddens me more, I think, to know more and more children will not grow up knowing the simple joy of curling up with a paper book, instead of an electronic device such as a table.
Still, as a busy adult, I know even I do not find enough time to read. I have books, but not the time to sit and enjoy a story.
My business partner has been asking me lately about what podcasts might interest me.
I haven’t dabbled much in the world of podcasts, but she introduced me to one with which I instantly fell in love.
“LeVar Burton Reads” is like Reading Rainbow for adults, a concept I never before had considered a possibility.
It is similar enough that there were some legal actions from the creators of the television show, which since have been resolved.
On his podcast, Burton chooses short stories from his favorites to read to his audience.
Much like wearing a favorite article of clothing, tuning in to this podcast is like coming home — I found instant comfort in it.
If you, like me, grew up watching Reading Rainbow, give this podcast a try. It can be found at www.levarburtonpodcast.com or on iTunes.
To whoever created or made possible this podcast: Thank you so much, from all of the ’80s babies who loved Reading Rainbow.