Series: Reading Rainbow

"Take a look, it's in a book..."

"I think reading is part of the birthright of the human being."
LeVar Burton, actor and children's literacy advocate.

American children's Edutainment Show that aired on PBS from 1983-2009note , and whose goal was simple encourage children to read. It was hosted by co-creator LeVar Burton (yes, that LeVar Burton).

Each episode featured a children's story, usually narrated by a celebrity, that focused on a specific theme (i.e., the importance of teamwork or learning about dinosaurs). The show would explore the theme further through various segments, live-action and animated. The last segment of the show would feature children providing recommendations of other books to look for at the library, preceded by LeVar saying "But you don't have to take my word for it." Every show ended with "I'll/We'll see you next time."

This show was part of PBS' "triple crown" of children's programming in The Eighties and The Nineties, along with Sesame Street and Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. It would be difficult indeed to find an American of a certain age who didn't watch this program at least occasionally, if not regularly. It's in the same Dude, Not Funny! category as Rogers rarely parodied (but if it is, it's always the positive kind), and insulting it will cause swift and nasty responses.

Rainbow won a Peabody Award and 26 Emmys, and ended its run as the third longest-running children's program in PBS history (behind the aforementioned Sesame Street and Mister Rogers' Neighborhood).

Five years after the show ended, Reading Rainbow has since been making a comeback as an internet-based outreach project. A Kickstarter project for the campaign reached its $1,000,000 goal before the first day was finished. As you can imagine, Burton is overwhelmed by this support. In all, the project received over $5.4 million in donations and set a record for most individual backers for a Kickstarter campaign.

Reading Rainbow has a Youtube Page. You can get your Reading Rainbow fix here.

This show provides examples of:

  • Animated Credits Opening: Used until 1999.
  • Affectionate Parody: One of them was produced by Funny Or Die, starring LeVar himself, showing the problems of taking the theme song's "I can do anything" too literally.
  • Catch Phrase: Three of them.
    • "Hi!" (each episode begins with LeVar saying this word.)
    • "But you don't have to take my word for it..."
    • "I'll/We'll see you next time."
  • Chroma Key: LeVar explains the technique in a 1991 episode about optical illusions.
  • Clip Art Animation: Utilized one book per episode.
  • Crossover: The episode "The Bionic Bunny Show" took us behind the scenes of Star Trek: The Next Generation note . Notably, it included the only official Hilarious Outtakes of TNG released for over a decade. TNG later completed the crossover by including this episode of Reading Rainbow as a bonus feature on the Blu-Ray of the second season.
  • Edutainment Show: One of the all-time greats; a TV show encouraging kids to read is not as hypocritical as it may sound.
  • Everything's Better with Rainbows: Well, it would've been pretty lame to have a show just called Reading, wouldn't it?
  • Excited Kids' Show Host: LeVar is Type 3 (informative, rarely condescending, not wacky/zany, speaks to children like adults).
  • Long Runners: Spent 26 years on the air before budget cuts killed it in 2009. Funnily enough, Reading Rainbow outlived Star Trek: The Next Generation by a few years (when you factor in the movies).
  • Losing Your Head: A pair of floating heads startle LeVar in one episode.
  • Out of Order: Two season 4 episodes that aired in 1986, "Animal Cafe" and "Watch the Stars Come Out", were actually shot during season 3 in 1985. The tell-tale signs are the style of end credits, and LeVar sporting a mustache and afro (he was clean-shaved and sporting a flat-top in all the episodes that were shot in 1986).
  • Pilot: "Gila Monsters Meet You at the Airport", which was shot in 1981, aired as the 8th episode of season 1 in 1983. It featured a completely different credit for a clean-shaved, younger-looking LeVar, and a slightly different 3-note jingle for the book recommendation segment. Not to mention the videotape quality looks noticeably poorer in this episode, in contrast to the rest of season 1.
  • Portal Books: Obviously.
  • Reading Is Cool Aesop
  • Roger Rabbit Effect: Used in the classic intro, although not to the same extent as others.
  • Sesame Street Cred: Many. Celebrity narrators ranged from Bill Cosby to Hulk Hogan.
  • Take Our Word for It: As the catchphrase indicates, averted.
  • Title Sequence Replacement: To the dismay of fans who know and love the original, trippy intro.
  • Trans Atlantic Equivalent: Long running BBC show Jackanory which began in 1965 offered virtually the same format to British children.

"We'll see you next time."