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Reading Rainbow
Reading rainbow2ndlogo.jpg
Logo used between 1999 and 2006
Format Children's television series
Presented by LeVar Burton
Country of origin United States
No. of seasons 21
No. of episodes 155 (List of episodes)
Running time 30 minutes
Original channel PBS
Picture format 480i (SDTV)
720p (HDTV) (upconverted matted)
Audio format Mono (1983)
Stereo (1984-2006)
Original run June 6, 1983 (1983-06-06) – November 10, 2006 (2006-11-10)

Reading Rainbow is an American children's television series aired by PBS from June 6, 1983 until November 10, 2006 that encourages reading among children. The award -winning series garnered over 200 broadcast awards, including scores of Emmy Awards, many for "Outstanding Children's Series." The series was created under the leadership of Cecily Truett Lancit and Larry Lancit, at Lancit Media Productions in New York. The concept of a reading series for children was inspired by Twila Liggett, Ph.D., of Lincoln, Nebraska of the Great Plains National Instructional Television Library at UNL; and Tony Buttino, of WNED-TV Buffalo, NY. The original team included Lynne Brenner Ganek, Ellen Schecter, and LeVar Burton as host.

Each episode centers on a theme from a book or other children's literature which is explored through a number of segments or stories. The show also provides book recommendations for kids to look for when they go to the library. It is the third-longest running children's series in PBS history, after Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and Sesame Street.

Reading Rainbow has won a Peabody Award and twenty-six Emmy Awards, ten of which were in the "Outstanding Children's Series" category.[1]


Show details

Reading Rainbow was hosted by actor and executive producer LeVar Burton, who is also known for his roles in Roots and Star Trek: The Next Generation. It was originally co-created and produced by Lancit Media Entertainment from 1982 until 2000, and was produced by On-Screen Entertainment from 2000 through 2006.

A regular feature was a children's book narrated by a noted celebrity. Some of the celebrities who have read on the show include Philip Bosco (Barbara Bash's Desert Giant: The World of the Saguaro Cactus), Michael Ansara (Paul Goble's The Gift of the Sacred Dog, Sheila MacGill Callahan's And Still the Turtle Watched), Flavor Flav (Leyla Torres' Saturday Sancocho), Bill Cosby (Francine Jacobs' Sam the Sea Cow, Marc Brown's Arthur's Eyes), and Hulk Hogan (David Wiesner's June 29, 1999). Another segment of the show featured Burton in different places talking to different people about their work and other contributions, focusing on the theme of each episode. The final segment of each show, called Book Reviews, began with Burton's introductory phrase, "But you don't have to take my word for it," and features children giving capsule reviews of books they recommend. Burton ended every show with, "I'll see you next time."

The series' pilot, which aired as the show's eighth episode in 1983, featured the book Gila Monsters Meet You at the Airport by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat, and was narrated by Doug Parvin. It was created and produced in 1981. Burton was the host. Lancit Media produced the majority of the series' episodes until the past few years.

Its theme song was written by Steve Horelick, Dennis Neil Kleinman, and Janet Weir; Horelick also served as the series' music director and composer. The theme was sung by Tina Fabrique. The original opening, which depicted a cartoon butterfly transforming the surroundings of young children reading books into cartoon fantasylands, was used until 1999. Later episodes used a new opening with the same theme song performed by R&B legend Chaka Khan.

The daughter of producer Larry Lancit, Shaune Lancit, was often featured in the series, most notably as the child thanking the sponsors at the end of the show.

Reading Rainbow's last years

Original production was to have ended in 2005, with the show continuing to air in reruns, but host LeVar Burton said on February 7, 2006 that five new episodes of the show would be shot in 2006 despite the continuing financial troubles of PBS[2].

However, in a presentation at Pennsylvania State University on January 29, 2007, Burton again announced that he had recently shot his last episode of Reading Rainbow and was retiring, citing differences with the new owners [3].

The Reading Rainbow logo used between 1983 and 1999.

Educate Inc. recently announced a new corporate configuration spinning-off Reading Rainbow into a new products division. The future of the series is uncertain. Burton stated on February 18, 2009, that he is considering webisodes of "a new version of a Reading Rainbow like show" for grownups[4].

On February 16 2009, Reading Rainbow began production and will re-air on PBS starting in the second quarter of 2010.

Animation producers


Feature Book filming

The photographing of the Feature Book segments was by:

  • Centron Films (1983-1987; renamed in 1986 to "Centron Productions Inc.")
  • Loren Dolezal (1988-1998; renamed in 1995 to "Dolezal Animation"); Take Ten Animation teamed up with Dolezal from 1995-1998
  • On Screen Entertainment (1999-2006)


Corporate funding for Reading Rainbow is/was provided by the following:

Guest readers and contributors


External links


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