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Saturday, September 12, 2009

PBS KIDS Reading Rainbow turns its last page

After 26 years of giving children reasons to read and opening up the possibilities that the love of literacy provides, PBS KIDS Reading Rainbow turned its last page Friday, August 28, 2009 when the powers-to-be gave the popular television show walking papers.

Over the years, Reading Rainbow was hosted by the genial yet kid-energizing Hollywood star, LeVar Burton, and even with the show garnering two dozen Emmy wins, a Peabody Award, TV Critics Award and NAACP Image Awards those factors did not prevent the program from being shuttered.

As an educational, as well entertaining children’s show, ranked only after Sesame Street and Mister Rogers Neighborhood in longevity, this demise comes as a total surprise.

What caused it? Apparently, it was twofold. Budgeting constraints being one cause (no surprise in this economy) but the other reason, which marked the show for the hit list was an initiative started with the Department of Education under the Bush administration. This initiative placed emphasis on providing children with the basic mechanics for reading, such as phonics and spelling, a niche which the current PBS KIDS program Super Why! fills quite nicely.

In an interview done by Ben Calhoun on National Public Radio’s (NPR) Morning edition, Linda Simensky, vice president for children's programming at PBS explained that when Reading Rainbow was first developed in the early 1980’s everyone was trying to figure out "How do we get kids to read books?"

Well, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Department of Education, and PBS have indeed provided the tools to help children learn to read with programs such as Super Why! but mechanics alone will not make lifelong readers. Once grasped, the tools for reading are marvelous to have but reinforcement is necessary.

Exposing young readers to the vast world of literary titles, as Reading Rainbow did during the last quarter century, opened children to the love of books, with the unlimited possibilities they provided, which (to paraphrase the show’s opening song) enabled them to be anywhere, and to let them be anything - that’s what’s in a book, just take a look.

Reading Rainbow will be missed.


TallTchr said...

Was there no outcry against its cancellation? Have the producers or the stars made any comments?

Paula Slade said...

TallTchr - As best as I can tell, no one from the show has spoken even though there have been approximately 260 news outlets that have picked up the story - everyone pretty much saying the same thing as my post. However, yesterday, PBS posted their response "The Story We Find Ourselves In: Why Literacy is Alive and Well" at There has indeed been a public outcry according to the mail they have received, but they are taking a very firm stance in not renewing the program. I personally do not agree with their logic. How about you?