After twenty-six years, Reading Rainbow is ending. NPR interviewed John Grant of Buffalo’s WNED, which produced the show:
The show’s run is ending, Grant explains, because no one — not the station, not PBS, not the Corporation for Public Broadcasting — will put up the several hundred thousand dollars needed to renew the show’s broadcast rights.My most vivid Reading Rainbow memories: LeVar Burton working the grill at Rosie’s Diner (in Little Ferry, New Jersey) and learning the mambo with Jackie Rio. Our whole family thought that Jackie and LeVar liked each other. Really liked each other. Like-liked each other. Lighthearted reverie aside, I feel real sorrow at the loss of Reading Rainbow.
Grant says the funding crunch is partially to blame, but the decision to end Reading Rainbow can also be traced to a shift in the philosophy of educational television programming. The change started with the Department of Education under the Bush administration, he explains, which wanted to see a much heavier focus on the basic tools of reading — like phonics and spelling.
Grant says that PBS, CPB and the Department of Education put significant funding toward programming that would teach kids how to read — but that’s not what Reading Rainbow was trying to do.
“Reading Rainbow taught kids why to read,” Grant says. “You know, the love of reading — [the show] encouraged kids to pick up a book and to read.”
Here, from a happier day, is LeVar singing the show’s theme:
LeVar Burton sings “Reading Rainbow” at Diggnation LA (YouTube)