Friday, August 28, 2009

Reading Rainbow Closes the Book

After 26 years, Reading Rainbow closed the book today on a long-running series about books for children. It won more than two dozen Emmys, and it was the third longest-running children's show in PBS history — outlasted only by Sesame Street and Mister Rogers. During the entire run of the show, which started in 1983, LeVar Burton hosted the show.

I met LeVar Burton in 1992 when I was the library manager at the Captiva Memorial Library on Captiva Island, Florida. The editor of a local newspaper called me and said she had been planning to kidnap me, not telling me where we were going, but thought she should tell me ahead of time, so I would be available for a boat trip. She knew I was a fan of Reading Rainbow. The library bought all of the videotapes as soon as they were available, to share with children. And, LeVar Burton was on Upper Captiva to film an episode of Reading Rainbow.

Here's the description of that episode. Season 10, Episode 8 – Aired: 10/14/1992

Seashore Surprises

"LeVar journeys to the shores of Sanibel Island, off the Gulf Coast of Florida, to witness the tides, feel the sand, and examine some plant life."

Only this description is wrong. LeVar was actually on Upper Captiva, an island reached only by boat. I had the chance to meet him, and thank him for everything he did for books and children. He was passionate about books and reading, saying his mother gave him that love of reading.

I'm still grateful that I had the chance to meet LeVar Burton, and thank him. How many actors would spend so much of their life, even if it wasn't much of his time each year, encouraging children to love books? Thank you, LeVar. Thank you, Reading Rainbow.


Jim said...

Thanks Lesa,

I remember well the day that happened and you said how nice he was to you! And anybody with a love of reading is a great guy!! Thanks for the memories!

Love Jim xoxo

Lesa said...

You're welcome, Jim. Yes, it was a special day.

Anonymous said...

How cool that you got to meet LeVar Burton! What a nice picture of the two of you. My daughter absolutely loved Reading Rainbow. She never has loved reading as much as I have, but there were certainly episodes of Reading Rainbow that made her want to read certain books. Sorry it is gone now.

Lesa said...

I am too, Kay. I understand PBS thinks it's more important to emphasize phonics in programming now, but I've never thought it hurt to share books, and an excitement about reading. LeVar Burton did that.