LeVar Burton talks new ‘Reading Rainbow’

Burton is back.

Even though “Reading Rainbow” is no longer on the airwaves, the children’s program has not run its course. Released only Wednesday, the “Reading Rainbow” iPad app became the No. 1 educational app in less than two days. LeVar Burton, the app’s host (and the co-founder and curator-in-chief for RRKidz, Inc., the company behind it) catches us up with the series’ quick turnaround for the newest generation.

How soon after “Reading      Rainbow” stopped airing did you know you needed to adapt it to a new medium?

Fairly immediately. All the press that it got, and that sort of public outcry, was surprising. It really got our attention. We thought, it’s notver for this brand. It’s ripe for a reinvention of itself, and we started focusing on it immediately.

Why is now the right time to bring the show back?

I think it’s just that weird confluence of a lot of factors. When we began this journey, the iPad hadn’t even come out yet. And when it did, it really helped inform what we were in the process of figuring out. Another one of the factors is that there is a whole generation of adults now who grew up on this show, and they really want something that they can share with their kids that they feel good about — that in a world of increasing proliferation of devices and technology, there is at least one thing they can rely on that is good for their kids. Back in the day, your parents didn’t need to know what program you were watching if the channel was tuned to PBS, right? And that is what I believe we represent to folks, and our kids as a new enrichment plan for children and their families.

How can parents get their children to enjoy reading?

Find out what your kid loves and get your kid reading material on that subject. It’s pretty darn simple.

How is technology changing the reading experience for kids today?
   
I think the reading experience itself, the idea of sitting down, whether it’s in a book or on an electronic device, and engaging yourself in a narrative, that will never change. Storytelling will never go out of style. Neither will the human desire to travel in our imaginations through good books. It doesn’t matter whether it’s on a device or in a booklet. I believe we will reach, probably in the not-too-distant future, a decision that it doesn’t make much sense anymore to tear down trees to make books. Books will become more rare, they will become more precious to us. But I don’t think we’ll ever see a world where there are no printed books. I just don’t see that happening. But I do believe we will come to consume most of the literature we read on an electronic device, on a pad of some sort.


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