You’ve probably been wondering, “Where the heck can I find me some Reading Rainbow?” Well now you can — in addition to owning a just-released Reading Rainbow app for iPhone and iPad — watch every single episode of the LeVar Burton-hosted PBS show on YouTube. I’d argue that the show, which ended its 26-year run in 2009, was a part of the childhood of many of the people who read this site on a daily basis, so HELLLLOOOOO nostalgia!
And speaking of the Reading Rainbow app, LeVar Burton — who also embedded himself in the childhood memories of a generation by playing Geordi La Forge on Star Trek — recently talked to Gizmodo about it…
Lots of people have apps. But it’s doubtful anyone cares as much about their app as LeVar Burton. I step into an expensive hotel room in Midtown Manhattan, and Burton springs up, greeting me by name, shaking my hand, talking almost immediately about reading. There’s an iPad in front of him.
But this isn’t just any product pitch—which is good, because Burton lacks all the unctuousness of a salesman or marketing player. He just… cares. His enthusiasm for an app designed to encourage little kids to read is almost overwhelming. How many people care about anything this much? And how much can I possibly properly appreciate an app designed for tiny kiddo brains? I can’t—so we brought our own: two boys, 3 and 5-years-old, stuck in that valley of super-hyperactivity spanning the end of school and the beginning of summer camp. As Burton lays out the app’s basics—a free download, a $10 per month subscription for unlimited kid-friendly titles, a vibrant cartoonish interface with hot air balloons and floating islands that capture the original series’ acid trip charm—the kids fidget. The older immediately covers himself in pretzel crumbs, the young starts chirping for mom’s attention. The kids are kids. It’s summer and they’d rather not be in a Midtown Manhattan hotel room on a beautiful day. Nobody would.
But then something incredible happens. We hand the older boy the iPad and fire up the Reading Rainbow app. He’s transfixed. The only word is transfixed. The fussing and pretzel-crunching stops, and his little brother curls next to him. They don’t fight over who gets to hold it. They both know intuitively how to use it—complete naturals. He picks pirates, animals, and space as his three preferred topics to generate recommended books. He starts reading along with Burton’s pre-recorded narration. The Wi-Fi sucks and the download stalls. He doesn’t care. The kids are—patient? Attentive? About a book.
LeVar Burton is goddamn American hero.