Reading Rainbow TV Poster Image

Reading Rainbow



Encouraging kids to read, one book at a time.
Popular with kidsParents recommend

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Compassionate curiosity with an emphasis on diversity is the bread and butter of this program.

Positive role models

LeVar Burton explores a wide range of social topics and demonstrates strong communication skills and curiosity. The kids who talk about their favorite books make a love of reading relatable and inspirational.

Violence & scariness
Not applicable
Sexy stuff
Not applicable
Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Reading Rainbow, which encourages kids to read, has been on for more than 20 years. Critics at first thought it was counter-intuitive to emphasize reading books on television. But this program makes story time rich and interesting. Along with stories narrated by renowned actors, documentary-style investigations explore everything from locomotives to city markets to slavery.

What's the story?

READING RAINBOW has been introducing books to kids since the early '80s. The series "promotes reading as a way children can sample the world around them." Host and executive producer LeVar Burton explores a wide range of social topics, including the United Nations' children's initiatives, holidays celebrated by other cultures, and worker's rights. By using the combination of a documentary magazine-style format and the wonderful illustrated books that populate the show's shelves, Burton manages to open young minds to the world.

Is it any good?


Kids of all colors, races, and ethnicities speak about their favorite books for a period during each program. It's a treat to watch the kids speak on their subjects. They run the gamut: self-confident, nervous, passionate, awkward, graceful, and eloquent. Hearing kids speak this passionately about books that they love is inspirational. It all adds up to a gentle, diverse, and effective educational program that can be enjoyed by all kids -- and their parents.

Many people know Burton from the series Star Trek: The Next Generation, on which he had the key role of Geordi La Forge. Others might recognize him from his gut-wrenching performance in the television adaptation of Roots. But the imprint that Burton has made on a generation of readers through Reading Rainbow is arguably his most important project to date.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the different subjects of each episode. The featured books and investigations can make great starting points for Internet research or a trip to the library.

  • What do kids enjoy about story time? Did you watch this program when you were younger? Does this show make your kids want to read more? Why is reading so important?

  • How do LeVar Burton and the kids on Reading Rainbow demonstrate curiosity and communication? Why are those important character strengths?

TV details

Premiere date:June 6, 1983
Cast:LeVar Burton
Topics:Book characters, Numbers and letters
Character strengths:Communication, Curiosity
TV rating:TV-Y
Available on:DVD, Streaming

This review of Reading Rainbow was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

  • Sesame Street Poster Image
    Classic show endures changes, but learning content remains.
  • WordGirl Poster Image
    Brainy heroine uses vocab to outwit bad guys.
  • Wallykazam! Poster Image
    Exceptional preschool show with quality literacy curriculum.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Kid, 11 years old July 19, 2015
Good for little ones learning to read, bad for 8+.
Teen, 13 years old Written byLaChaton April 9, 2008

(just read)

This is a great show. I use to LOVE it. It's all about books (which i refer to as my "truest luffies" and everyone knows that I mean books). Reading Rainbow features many classic and entertaining books with very animated readers. They also make it more excitig by making the story "come to life". They take all the pictures and animate them. And Levar Burtan (if he's still the host) has some very interesting scenarios that he gets into. My brother and I always found it entertaining to guess the age of the episode as well. :) It's an amazing show and I'm so glad they show all the reruns endlessly. I'm also thankful to the fact that my parents shoved PBS and the news down my throat from the time I was born.
Adult Written bySonia Montejano April 9, 2008

A classic-- best ever!

Ever since I was a child watching this show I've loved it-- me and my friends can still sing the theme song even though we're in college. Great, classic show for encouraging kids to read!!! But you don't have to take my word for it...