PBS Ends Run Of LeVar Burton’s Reading Rainbow

Reading Rainbow, the PBS children’s show that Star Trek The Next Generation’s LeVar Burton hosted since 1983, airs for the last time today. The show that won two dozen Emmys will end up being the third longest series in PBS history.


Butterfly in the sky, Reading Rainbow goodbye
According to a report at NPR, Reading Rainbow is ending because it cannot get funding to renew the broadcast rights, apparently the result of changing priorities. From the NPR report:

… the decision to end Reading Rainbow can also be traced to a shift in the philosophy of educational television programming. The change started with the Department of Education under the Bush administration, he explains, which wanted to see a much heavier focus on the basic tools of reading — like phonics and spelling.

Burton helped teach kids to read for over two decades
(WNED Buffalo)

Reading Rainbow and Star Trek
In one of the more memorable episodes of Reading Rainbow, back during the production of Star Trek The Next Generation Burton took his viewers on a behind the scenes tour of the show. Here it is (in two parts):


An adult Reading Rainbow?
No word yet from LeVar on the end of the series, but back in February the actor Tweeted that he may have a new spin on RR:

Want y’all to know that I’m seriously moving forward with an idea for a new version of a Reading Rainbow like show. Webisodes for adults.

Until then, we will just have the memories. Here is LeVar Burton singing the Reading Rainbow at Diggnation in January


LeVar drops by the Soup again
One last bit of LeVar love. If you remember, back in January we reported on when Burton dropped by E!’s The Soup with the cast of AMC’s Mad Men. Earlier this month he did it again (and even mentioned Reading Rainbow). Here it is:


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That’s such a shame.

Mr. Burton will land on his feet with something. A RR for adults…. sounds like something for the Discovery or Science channels. Good on you mate!

I think a more adult oriented reading rainbow would be great!
(Levar) Today, we’re visiting a meat packing plant. And John here, is gonna tell us a little bit about it.


(Levar) Whoa! So this is what sausage looks like before its packed!
(Worker) That’s right Levar. Miles upon miles of this meat here gets shoved into that there vat.
(Levar) Wah-hah-how! This is exactly the kind of thing that happens in Upton Sinclair’s book…The Jungle.

(queue animated pig slaughtering and narration)

I liked what Bill Nye did after the kids show ended and he made “The Eyes of Nye” That was a great idea.

Quite a shame, I loved this show, and it really did help me get into reading. If affected my life in a huge way, and I’m sorry that other children won’t get the same opportunity. PBS should offer more for older kids as well, not just those learning their letters.

Oh my god… just like the death of Mr. Rodger, this is certainly the end of an era. Not 6 years ago I was watching Reading Rainbow religiously (as with many other PBS shows). I remember seeing an episode of TNG for the first time and thinking: that’s the guy from Reading Rainbow!

I think it’s a travesty that like so many other parts of education, even reading is being dumbed-down by federal mandates and NCLB. It’s a sad fact that the vocabularies of today’s children are significantly smaller than those of 50 years ago, and many children think reading is “stupid”.

Well. PBS is not what it once was. It used to have great programming. Now i fear that Sesamee St will be next to be canceled. Thank you LaVar for doing this incredable show and for teaching millions of people on how to read.

NOOOOOOOO!!!! lol just playing i used to watch him since i was 3. that is and was a good show.

Dubya takes another life… Can’t he leave anything in peace…even AFTER he leaves office?

7 – “Thank you LaVar for doing this incredable show and for teaching millions of people on how to read.”

If only it had taught you how to spell, punctuate and capitalize the personal pronoun “I.” ;-)

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! If I win the lottery, I will bring back Reading Rainbow!

Hats off and many thanks for LeVar and the production crew’s hard work on this truly excellend show. I grew up with this show. It was a big part of my childhood and always will be a big part of me. *grateful salute*


Ah, memories. I remember “Reading Rainbow” so well. My thanks to LeVar Burton for 26 years of taking a look in a book.

Nice run there. All those episodes and all those emmys are nothing to sneeze at! Take a bow sir, you’ve earned it.

Oh hell no!! I grew up on this. LeVar was the only cast member I knew from TNG because of Reading Rainbow! Once, here in Cleveland when in high school, I saw a play called, ‘Fences’ (starring Bill Cobb, another Trek alum & fantastic actor) and the woman who sang the original song (boy, I hate that I can’t recall her name). You wouldn’t believe it, seeing students from four seperate inner city high schools in the Playhouse theater so still & quiet when she belted out that song… then we all joined along! Oh, those were the days!

Ha, found it, the singers name is Tina Fabrique!

That episode was the one that inspired me to pursue a career in film making. Can’t believe the show is getting canned. Teaching kids to want to read is just as important as teaching them *to* read, in my opinion. They’re both tools in the arsenal. Too bad they’re putting one away.

To be honest I thought this was canceled 20 years ago. It seemed like it was always reruns even when I was a kid – though I suppose that may be a local station issue.

Read on if you consider yourself brave:

As of now if you stop reading it does you no good even this line bears the same consequence.
I wish the death of a family member. I curse myself. The number five counteracts the curse. Someone that I love will die in twenty-four hours unless I repost this letter 5 times. If I fail to do so the curse is on me and only I am to blame

Wow, we get in political digs in an article and someone has to take it further; then we get an even more spam-like post. What is happening here?

I never did learn how ta’ read or write…

Now… it be too late.

This makes me sad but I’m glad the show ran as long as it did. I watched it as a kid and I know it’s part of the reason I love reading so much.

Thanks so much for posting the link to the TNG episode of “Reading Rainbow!” I nearly fell out of my chair when that originally aired, because I was a new Trekkie at the time. Memories…

This sucks!

Reading Rainbow was awesome!

As always, it’s a sad state of affairs in the American Educational system!

So bad in fact, that the children of the alleged number 1 country in the world can’t follow a reading lesson taught by Levar.

If your kid can’t sit through Reading Rainbow, throw them off a cliff & try again! Romulan Style!

LeVar Burton has been mentioning the funding problems for a while in interviews, and I’m very sorry to see that a solution couldn’t be worked out.

I have many, many childhood memories of Reading Rainbow (which I made sure to tell Burton when I met him last year), and there really isn’t an analogue for it in today’s television landscape.

I totally agree with Will Johnson’s comment above that teaching children about the joy of books is about much more than just the mechanics of reading.

I began watching Reading Rainbow every morning as a kid , then I also caught an episode of TNG quite by accident and seen Levar Burton in his VISOR and was hooked .

It’s a shame the show was cancelled but it is also a sign of the times , people are become less concerned with education more concerned with what celebs are doing and the latest technological fads that are here today and gone tomorrow .

*raises glass to Levar*

You will be missed sir!

I watched that show every day with my little brother in the early 90’s just so I could try and see that behind the scenes tour of the enterprise again. Thank goodness for YouTube, and a quality show will be missed. A shame, considering I have a 2-year-old now…

I used to watch the show when teaching–even when the kids were not in the classroom!

No Reading Rainbow is a very sad thing indeed. (;^(

End of Reading Rainbow? Say it aint so! I loved that show as a little girl, even before I fell in love with Star Trek. I think ending Reading Rainbow is a mistake.

I really wish that RR was avaliable on DVD. With a daughter on the way, I’d really love to have some of those stories avaliable with the fun way that LeVar hosted the show.

Fortunately, I love to read, and am already reading to our little lady… but still, this was one of those things I was looking forward to sharing with Clare.


My heart sank when I saw the headline.

Relieve me of duty. I am emotionally compromised.

What a crock. I always enjoyed the show whenever I caught it. I think it was a terrific show and just as educational, no matter what the Department of Education thinks. The TNG episode was great! Sad to see this go.

Does anyone remember how Lavar in his first major role on ROOTS was one of the few Slaves that learned to read and write. And his faking all those papers for fellow slaves to do what the slaves wanted not what there masters wanted.

Or is that getting to far back in time, you know the stone age when they had mostly B&W TV and mono sound, and the Betamax was the VCR if you had a grand or so to waste. And if you did not there was this medium called paper books in Hard and Soft cover. And if you were still needing reading help there was Comic books.

You can say in those 25 years he has helped around half the kids with reading problems get past their problems and learn to read far easier than the factory made school teachers.

And for those scared of school education being Mass Programming (brainwashing in their eyes) Lavar was someone that really made it, he helped lower the fear and made the learning process acceptable and available.

For that effort he deserves more than a few emmy’s or even many of them but do they not have enough award shows. Don’t they have an award show for the best performer that learned to tie their shoes by themselves. They have so many award shows if they do not have that show yet give then a year or two,

This is a travesty! I watch Reading rainbow twice daily with my son, always something interesting, even the shows that are 10 plus years old. I hope they come out with a modern version that meets the needs of the network while still utilizes the well proven method RR has used for so many years.

I hope that burtons next show will be science oriented, he is so identified with it. as well as the engineering uniform..if he has it.

I’ll never know why — this guy drives me nuts.

I don’t meant that disrespectfully — there’s just something about him that I can’t stand.

Damn shame. Butterfly in the sky, indeed.

I really hope we shift our views on how we deal with education. I honestly think its far more important for children to want to read rather than them learn perfect grammar and other things at a young age. Reading opens up a new way to interact with the world and children need that, far more than any video games. Its a shame, I grew up watching that show and thought it was so cool that it was the same guy from Star Trek, which I also grew up watching. Burton seems like a good guy to have been dedicated to something like Reading Rainbow for that long. I hope he gets another chance to inspire children soon.

RR is much better than that Word World crap… i can’t believe that RR is being canceled but other shows go on…..

Well, here we go:
1.)Obama is president and can ‘change’ the direction of education and allow for RR to stay on. So if he doesnt ‘change’ something Bush set in motion, then he obviously has no problem with it. Or he is really just the weakest and most ineffective president ever.

2.)I loved RR and remember watching it with my first son, and as a Trek fan, fondly remember the behind the scenes ep. First son is now 19.

3.)If American kids are having trouble reading, it’s likely that they have either a learning disability, or shiftless lazy parents who are waiting on the government to teach them. My kids have all been reading and writing before PreK because my wife and I actually love them and take the time to teach them ourselves.

4.)As much as I appreciated and enjoyed RR with my first born, my other two kids never watched it. I also thought it had been canceled years ago.

Seems a bit of a stretch to blame this on the Bush administration. Any changes in funding formulas would have been felt long before now. And if PBS really wanted to support the show, they could find a way.

Network slimes are network slimes, even at PBS.

RR should go on forever.

I loved this show as a kid. Thank you Levar for doing something good in the world (besides Star Trek which is wonderful). We will all miss this wonderful educational show.

Reaponding to Govt Thugs wont scare us away you know what I love my kids and they were given tools to help them learn. But lazy and shiftless? Thank God you ar the only parents who love their kids. Want to know something I let my kids be kids if that makes me lazy and shiftless so be it, and yes I do expect my kids to go to school and learn what planet are you from? Take your soap box put it you know where, stop patting yourself on the back before you hurt yourself, and toddle on home.

Oh my goodness, I just remembered! I saw the Star Trek episode of Reading Rainbow way before I had every seen Star Trek. I just thought it was another show. Then I saw a picture of the TNG crew and said – it’s the guy from Reading Rainbow!! I still didn’t even know about the show – I thought he was just a guest star! And many years later when I got interested in Star Trek and watched reruns of TNG, I realized what a large role LeVar Burton had.

Oh my goodness, I just remembered! I saw the Star Trek episode of Reading Rainbow way before I had every seen Star Trek. I just thought it was another show. Then I saw a picture of the TNG crew and said – it’s the guy from Reading Rainbow!! I still didn’t even know about the show – I thought he was just a guest star! And many years later when I got interested in Star Trek and watched reruns of TNG, I realized what a large role LeVar Burton had.

I was listening closely for curse words in those flubs. grin.

I watched RR a lot as a kid. I also thought it had ended a long time ago.
Amazing run.

44. hurtzsogood
Nope. You are all wrong buddy. Im proud of my kids, and the job we have done as parents. If you read my post you saw I said my oldest watched it as a kid. My other 2 havent. But they have watched Sesame Street. Both shows have played a part in their education. But, point I am making is it wasnt necessary.
As for lazy and shiftless parents, im not saying those that use these shows as teaching tools are lazy and shiftless. What im saying is that there are lazy and shiftless parents who have no interest in their kids. Wife and I both are or have been in law enforcement, we see this every day. It’s a heart breaker. Kids who cant read anywhere near their grade level, and speak as bad. Parents dont give a crap.

And I find it interesting that you attacked me and then told me to go away :-) , because you didnt like my opinion.
Thats where I got my ‘handle’ from.

This announcement just ruined my whole day!! :(