As of last Friday Reading Rainbow was cancelled. I grew up watching this program while living in Germany (we received a handful of British stations). The kids on the program were so excited about reading and introduced me to new subject matter that I would never have been exposed to in my daily life. Never mind LeVar Burton’s captivating performances and readings!
Reading Rainbow taught me that it was ok to like reading and be excited about books. A Geek was in the making and this show was helping me along the way. I credit this show with making me the avid reader I am today.
A spokesman for PBS said that the reason the show was cancelled was first because of funding. Apparently they have not produced a new episode in three years and secondly (and they are stating this reason rather loudly) that research has shown that summer reading among school age children has been diminishing over the last few years (maybe around 3 years?). They are not showing the smallest bit of concern for a show that has become legendary in children’s television.
PBS is clearly to blame for the show’s financial problems. Did they try to get the funding for Reading Rainbow? I never heard anything about it. If I would have heard that I may have actually picked up the phone during a telethon for the first time in my life and donated.
I wish someone at PBS could explain why a show which nurtures the love of reading in children, is such a bad thing. Apparently they will try to replace Reading Rainbow with programming that teaches kids how to read phonetically. Great, but how will they learn what to read? Reading Rainbow gave everyone regardless of race or social status equal footing. The exposure to the rest of the world was interesting! Parents don’t have the time to research which books will widen their children's world view. Maybe PBS thinks that they should just read toy catalogs and cereal boxes.
Sesame street has always taught phonetic reading to kids. Reading Rainbow completed the formula by providing kids good, solid choices about what to read. PBS has taken the second step away from our children.
As for me, I will do everything I can to nurture my children's love for reading without PBS’s help. I was hoping for some generational continuity, “I used to watch this when I was a kid.” Thank you PBS for making that impossible.
I never thought I would have to write a post like this about PBS. It seems that television, no matter how apparently well-intentioned, is filled with people who put the intellectual growth of their younger viewers second. I think I’ll stick to books for learning, I just hope that my kids receive the same message.
You can’t have a moment of silence on the internet. However, if you’ve just finished reading this post, I ask that in honor of the fall of Reading Rainbow, you observe a moment of stoppage (no surfing).
Photo retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/doctorow/