Reading Rainbow

Common Sense Media says

Encouraging kids to read, one book at a time.





What parents need to know

Positive messages

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

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 this program, 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.

Parents say

Kids say

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?

TV details

Cast:LeVar Burton
Topics:Book characters, Numbers and letters
TV rating:TV-Y

This review of Reading Rainbow was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Adult Written bySonia Montejano April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age

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...
Teen, 13 years old Written byLaChaton April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age

(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.
Teen, 15 years old Written byGregoryMccormick123 June 23, 2014

PBS Classic!

I LOVED watching it as a kid, I still enjoy watching online. Far better than the mindless crap PBS has on nowadays for kids. It's educational, it encourage kids to read, and Lavar was a cool host. It's my 2nd favorite PBS show, it's up there with Sesame Street and Mister Roger's Neighborhood. LONG LIVE READING RAINBOW!


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