Nothing, it seems, mobilizes the public like a good cause, a genuine belief in learning, and nostalgia.
Levar Burton, it appears, with the help of his fans and admirers, can do anything: Reading Rainbow is coming back to a classroom near you, thanks to an overwhelming response to his Kickstarter campaign. And not just any response: Burton raised his $1 million goal… in one day. One. Day. In fact, at the time of this writing, the Kickstarter campaign has raised almost $2.3 million, well over twice the projected goal!
Burton hosted Reading Rainbow, which aired on PBS from 1983 until its cancellation in 2009 and influenced generations of children to appreciate books and develop a love of reading, myself included. Burton, also known for his roles as Geordi LaForge on Star Trek: The Next Generation and Kunta Kinte in Roots, looked at the depressing statistics concerning illiteracy in our nation and felt it was a time for him to,yet again, do his part in the fight against illiteracy.
On his Reading Rainbow Kickstarter campaign page, Burton lays out his plan to use the funds raised to bring the show to the Internet, providing users access to the hundreds of books in the RR collection and opening a portal to a variety of virtual fieldtrips. Further, he wants to build a specialized version of the program to be used in the classroom, incorporating it into the reading and literacy curricula already in place. Lastly, the initial goal of $1 million will allow the campaign to put RR in 1500 disadvantaged classrooms free of charge. (The site has since posted that it will soon reveal goals for the contributions the campaign earned over that goal.)
Like many of my friends and many of you reading this, a smile crawled across my face and my heart skipped a beat when I saw the news of the Kickstarter campaign appear on my social media newsfeeds on Wednesday. To be sure, part of that was from the affection we all have for Reading Rainbow. However, I also feel that we are becoming increasingly aware of the illiteracy epidemic spreading through America’s classrooms. I worked in a public school system for over a decade and I saw more and more students every year not only becoming disinterested in reading, but not being able to read, period. I think the two are inextricably linked, and I think Mr. Burton sees that as well. His cause is a timely one, and it couldn’t come at a more critical time.
But don’t take my word for it. Give the Kickstarter campaign a look (and contribute if you like!)