Butterfly in the Sky

June 7, 2014 § Leave a comment

I was in the second grade when Reading Rainbow premiered. I want to say that the first episode had the magician Harry Blackstone as a guest, but I’m not certain about that and the Internet doesn’t know.

My third-grade teacher, Mrs. Lemme, was not only into reading, she was into rainbows, so naturally she was a champion of the show. I remember when Bill Cosby did the reading for Arthur’s Eyes, which was the first book featured on the show that I had already read. (It’s required when you have glasses at age seven.)

Now LeVar Burton wants to bring Reading Rainbow back, and the host has launched a Kickstarter toward that end.

Because Generation X loves projecting its childhood staples on millennials, lest every awesome thing be lost to history, it took a mere 12 hours for Reading Rainbow to reach its million-dollar goal. It is now trying to reach $5 million within thirty-five days. “With the additional money,” says Alex Knapp at Forbes, “the company [RRKidz] aims to get not only on the web, but also to Android, game consoles, smartphones, and other streaming devices.”

The bridge across technologies would seem to be an obvious requirement for any media project in the twenty-first century. The new challenge, then, might not be instilling in children a love of storytelling via the written word but how to do so when the modern digital paradigm does all it can to tempt readers away from the confines of straight linear narrative. There is a delay in gratification when you read a book–that’s part of its social contract–and its enjoyment demands an uninterrupted streaming of engagement. And Reading Rainbow, as hard as it tries, cannot be anything other than a passive experience, one that teaches us less to enjoy reading than to enjoy being read to. (Adults have a similar relationship with NPR’s Selected Shorts). What the show cannot do is put books in kids’ hands and turn on the itch to dig deeper to find bliss.

But I’m glad it’s here to try.

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