Common Classroom: The Common Sense Education Blog

Bringing Reading Rainbow Where Kids Need It Most—To Tablets, Classrooms, And Every Child, Everywhere

LeVar_Burton Actor, Director, Educator, Student Categories: Common Sense News
Actor, Director, Educator, Student

It’s no secret that I recently launched a Kickstarter to bring Reading Rainbow back to tablets, on the web, and especially to classrooms. We’ve had an overwhelming initial response, and I am filled with gratitude for the passion and generosity I’ve seen from our initial backers. But things have been slowing down the past few days and that worries me, because our fight is just beginning.

It will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I believe the gift of literacy is the most important gift we give our children. Reading is our birthright as humans. Literature is one of the very first ways in which we learn to observe and interact with the world.  Literature is a springboard for experience. A great book is an amazing piece of art that inspires the imagination and makes us want to get out there and be a part of the world!

This interaction with literature has to start young, and for better or worse, our kids have a lot of things vying for their attention these days, books won’t always win out. Studies show that children who can't read at grade level by the 4th grade are 400% more likely to drop out of high school, and we simply can’t let this happen. This is why we want to bring books to them, to meet them wherever they are spending their time and attention. Right now, that means bringing books to tablets and mobile devices; at home, on the go, and in schools.

Two years ago my business partner Mark Wolfe and I launched the Reading Rainbow App for tablets. Building on the basics of the television series, we put hundreds of quality books – and educational video field trips – right in a child’s hands, and it has been a HUGE success! The numbers we are seeing speak for themselves:

  • Average number of books read per week in-app: 184,600
  • Average number of videos watched per week: 128,857
  • Total books read in-app since launch: 9,382,747
  • Total videos watched since launch: 6,485,519

We have proven that kids will come to the tablet not just to play games, but to read!

We couldn’t be happier about these numbers, but at the same time we know that we aren’t reaching the kids we really need to reach. We aren’t reaching the first grader whose single mom is working double shifts just to put food on the table. That child doesn’t have an iPad at home, and probably doesn’t have access to one at school either. By bringing Reading Rainbow to the web – and especially to schools – we can reach those kids who are at risk of falling through the cracks.

I am thrilled to be delivering the Common Sense Spotlight at ISTE in a few weeks. I come from a family of teachers. My mother Erma Gene Christian was a teacher of English at the High School level. My sister is a teacher. I know how hard teachers work, and how much of themselves they sacrifice in order to give their students the best chance of success. I know of teachers who are using money out of their own pockets to buy basic supplies for their classrooms.

We can’t continue to let this happen – any of it. We have a responsibility to ensure that Every Child, Everywhere has access to books and a path to literacy. We need to help these kids, teachers and families, and I want to start by giving them Reading Rainbow for free in their classrooms. If we work together we can accomplish this goal. We can do this.

But you don’t have to take my word for it...

Attending ISTE? Enter here to win one pair of tickets to the Common Sense Spotlight on Sunday, June 29 at 4:30 PM in Conference Room B311 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta. 

LeVar Burton has been the host and producer of Reading Rainbow for 31 years. LeVar and Reading Rainbow’s mission is to inspire a love of reading in children and connect them to the world they live in through quality literature so they believe that they can “go anywhere, be anything.”

Learn more about Reading Rainbow and the free Reading Rainbow App at ReadingRainbow.com. Support our Kickstarter campaign to bring Reading Rainbow into schools and homes, to Every Child, Everywhere, at http://www.helpreadingrainbow.com.

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