You may know Levar Burton from his days as Geordi La Forge from Star Trek: The Next Generation. You may remember him from his role in Roots or if you’re like me, you learned to read watching countless hours of Burton on Reading Rainbow.
Reading Rainbow had an incredible run on PBS for 21 years. The show, which spent a half an hour each day exploring themes from a favorite book or piece of literature, ran from 1983 to 2006. Two years ago Burton and his business partner Mark Wolfe took to the stage at Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) and unveiled Reading Rainbow 2.0, the most popular educational app in the world.
While that may seem like the rest of the story, Burton actually knows there’s more he can do. Even with a very successful career in television, post Reading Rainbow, Burton’s first love is getting kids engaged in reading. He realizes that while the Reading Rainbow ipad app is one of the most popular in the world, there are still millions of kids without access to the vault and the new material being created under the Reading Rainbow brand.
With the big push in educational technology (edtech) these days, and as we prepare for Summer School 2014, Burton is working on bringing Reading Rainbow and all of it’s very valuable assets to the web. Once it’s on the web, he and his team will partner with over 1500 schools across the globe to get Reading Rainbow in the classroom.
Many of today’s newer teachers are those same kids that grew up, learning to read with Reading Rainbow. Decades before it’s time, Reading Rainbow was a virtual reading instructor, the kind of active entertainment that educational app publishers today drool over. Burton has had success making it interactive with the app, and will continue that with this edtech effort.
Burton is no stranger to technology, he spearheaded the Reading Rainbow app and has spoken at EdTech and general technology events around the world. I saw him at DragonCon a few years back, where even with the onslaught of pop culture fans and Star Trek references, you could tell his main focus was reading and Reading Rainbow. Not to mention the fact that his Kickstarter video is absolutely hilarious and a must watch for anyone ages 15-35, like right now, stop what you’re doing and watch it.
One of the great things about Burton was that when you look back at Reading Rainbow, vs the other television shows we watched as kids, Burton wasn’t the least bit creepy, and still isn’t.
While the TV stations that aired Reading Rainbow used to have those pledge drives every year, Burton never had to worry about that, at least not for 21 years. Now he’s doing his own pledge drive via Kickstarter. The goal is to raise $1,000,000 and with that they can bring Reading Rainbow to classrooms everywhere, for Free.
So if you learned to read with Reading Rainbow and LeVar Burton, you just about owe it to the next generation to reach into your wallet and pledge at least $5.00. They’ve currently raised $135,000 of their $1,000,000 goal.