Reading Rainbow

If you were a child growing up in the 80s and 90s, you probably remember Reading Rainbow, a PBS television show that encouraged kids to read.

Well Reading Rainbow is back as a tablet app and is headed into homes and classrooms. The actor and now entrepreneur LeVar Burton is behind the resurgence of Reading Rainbow.

And LeVar is financing this new version of Reading Rainbow with a Kickstarter campaign that is its final stage (32 hours to go).

The initial goal of the campaign was $1mm and when they hit that in the first few days, LeVar raised it to $5mm and as of right now, they are about $300k short.

I backed this project a while ago and I think it is fantastic. I encourage everyone from AVC to check it out and back it if you are so inclined.

#hacking education

Comments (Archived):

  1. JLM

    .There is something interesting about leveraging celebrity and capital at work here. It is hard not to like the idea and the sponsor.JLM.

    1. awaldstein

      Kickstarter is a wonder and works the best for existing or cult legacy brands and people (aka celebs) with preexistent networks.The worse place the build a network, the best place to aggregate one.

      1. LE

        Essentially yet another confirmation of the value of branding obviously. [1]But is this true over all categories of products/offerings on Kickstarter or only certain categories or products?I would think it is true for things you don’t really need, but not true for things that actually have a purpose and that you do need or can solve a problem for you. (This is a question I’m not big into kickstarter so I don’t know the answer and I’m curious).[1] Two liquor brands (at least) have been spun off from the Real Housewives of NYC. One was skinny girl (Bethanny) (which did super well was flying off the shelves of local liquor stores I was told) and the other a Pinot from Ramona Singer. Both celebrities leveraged their name and, brand and exposure. What’s interesting is other celebs did local things with a limited reach that couldn’t do that well (exercise studio is an example).

        1. awaldstein

          Dunno–Been involved in a bunch and don’t know if I can make a distinction between things that have a purpose or don’t.Use is subjective, want is not.

          1. LE

            It’s a scale. A continuum. Not a black and whiteOn one end (of the arbitrary scale) there is something like a washing machine or a typewritter, or Air Conditioning (back when invented that is) that solves a problem or makes life better or easier in some way.On the other end is something that is entertaining like art or a song or a movie. Definitely has a purpose and definitely provides something (pleasure which is needed) but if it didn’t there would be 1000 other songs or movies that would do the same. Now some of those things could be so good that they are life changing but most aren’t. They are widgets basically.Btw, I’m not trying to be judgmental and I’m not one of those people yelling about how useless some offerings are or how people should be spending their time on something “more important”. Just pointing something out. If I was able to make a movie, put it on kickstarter and make money or have success with it I would!

      2. JaredMermey

        Kickstarter is great because it assigns a definition of degree to the individual consumer, whereas TV doesn’t. 100,000 cult-loyal TV fans is not much to an advertiser. 100,000 cult-loyal Kickstarter backers at a bigger dollar amount per backer does mean something.See the Veronica Mars success story.

        1. awaldstein

          Not sure I follow.I understand the impact of building a community and market through the dynamics of the crowd sourcing act itself.That’s what crowdsourcing is about.The analog to advertising is lost on me.

      1. Dave Pinsen

        We watched Roots on tape in my elementary school (which was mostly black; watching Roots didn’t exactly increase racial harmony there), but I remember Burton more for his role as the chief engineer of the Enterprise on Star Trek: TNG. MacFarlane has had members of the TNG cast on his shows before, so I guess he knows Burton from that. He seems to be a big Star Trek (and Star Wars) fan.

        1. ShanaC

          me too…

      2. sigmaalgebra

        Essentially that same stuff was going on in Memphis when I was there, and I wanted nothing to do with it and HATED it. I still HATE it.My father was from a little south of Buffalo, NY and met my mother when he was in college at Ohio State University in Columbus where Dad had an uncle — my parents wanted nothing to do with that Old South stuff.My father’s job took him to a little north of Memphis, so he went. So, as I spent time there, I learned more and more about that Old South stuff.Since Dad had a good job, and Mom was a high end secretary and, thus, quickly on first name basis with much of the Memphis elite, we did okay, but the Old South stuff was never very far away. Mom did have a house keeper one day a week and was good enough to make the Social Security contributions which were usually neglected.My neighborhood was pretty, happy, very safe (we never locked the doors). My school had to be one of the best in the country: The year I graduated, MIT came recruiting. The year before me, three guys went to Princeton and ran against each other and some poor fourth guy for President of the Freshman Class. My SAT scores were fine. My math background was, comparatively, right up there: I easily taught myself freshman calculus and in college started on sophomore calculus with the same book Harvard used and did fine. So, I was not supposed to complain.But, in my school, we used a new book for four years at which time it was falling apart. Then the book got sent to South Memphis, the ‘other’ Memphis, the one from the Old South. Ugly situation.As soon as I could, I got the heck out of Memphis and was glad to be gone from the Old South.A few years later I got a call to return to Memphis to help start FedEx and was assured that in Memphis finally the Civil War and the Old South were gone with the wind. So, I joined, rented a room in Memphis, used the FedEx WATTS line to call my wife, still back in Maryland, each evening, and each few weeks rode jump seat on the FedEx planes (officially and also in part in reality as an observer of flight operations) home for a few days. Nope: The Civil War and the Old South were both fully alive and well.Although my work in computing and applied math literally, single-handedly saved FedEx from going out of business twice, the FedEx promises of stock didn’t come through, and without stock in hand or in a rock solid legal document, no way did I want to drag my wife out of her Ph.D. program at Johns Hopkins to bring her to Memphis so left FedEx and went to Hopkins for my Ph.D. Again I was glad to be out of the Old South of Memphis.A few months ago I looked into what had happened to a girlfriend I’d had in high school, happened to get an update on Memphis, and had to conclude that the place is still the Old South fighting the Civil War.One Saturday when I was 15, I was invited to come see my girlfriend at the house of her cousin. So, I rode on my bicycle, and part of the trip was on a busy, four lane street with a lot of fast traffic, economic activity, and street lights. But there was no place for a bicycle, and the ride was the most dangerous of the years of bicycle riding I’d done.So, on the way home, I tried another street, parallel to the busy one and one block south. Right: No traffic. No people. No economic activity. Unpretty houses, mostly completely dark. No street lights. Big holes in the road. Just one block south and parallel but straight out of the Old South. After a mile or two I was back to a road along a country club, right, wide road, smooth, perfect, lots of street lights, low traffic.Did I mention, I HATE that old stuff?Once that stuff gets started, it’s super, super, super difficult to reverse, clean up, ‘melt’, correct, or stop.More generally, and a current concern, I hate the strong, cynical, deliberate efforts to create another exploited underclass in the US. It’s a bummer; it violates both the letter and spirit of both a lot of very clear laws and much of the commendable history of immigration into the US; it is deliberately attempting to create class conflict and does and will; it’s just pissing on the cultural strength of the US; it’s a big mistake; we should NOT be doing it; and I hate it. We should STOP it. And a solution will take much more than a Kickstarter campaign.Of COURSE we need ‘Reading Rainbow’ and much, much more; but that is all just as it was long and still deliberately planned to be. And there is not much hope we will get the much, much more for a very long time, where 150 years is not very long.

      3. fredwilson

        he was awesome in Roots

  2. Andrew Kennedy

    Oh man. This is great.

  3. LaMarEstaba

    Already backed it. Love the concept and the mission. LeVar Burton is great for putting this together.

  4. greekminecraftgamerGR

    cool men cool coooooooool is your fellow

  5. pointsnfigures

    Great to see him do this and I hope he has success. Keep Kim Kardashian off Kickstarter.

    1. LE

      You don’t think that “Kim Kardashians” are a net win for Kickstarter? I do.

    2. Guest

      Is AmandaFuckingPalmer the Kim Kardashian of Kickstarter? Let the hipster hand wringing begin…

  6. jason wright

    what happened to traditional reading books for kids?putting children in front of a telly wasn’t right back then, and an app approach doesn’t seem quite right now.Belgium 2 USA 0

    1. awaldstein

      Apps for kids are great.Was involved as a publisher with educational games early on and the edu app world is just a great step forward when done well.Wasn’t and still isn’t a book replacement.

    2. Russell

      I would upvote, but you have the score line backwards

      1. jason wright

        i see your point.USA 0 Belgium 2

        1. Russell


  7. Jon Michael Miles

    Excellent – perfect – thanks for the share.

  8. Robert Heiblim

    Reading is and remains very very important. Too many are functionally illiterate and the effects are tragic. All efforts here are important, thanks Fred.

  9. William Mougayar

    Is there a tie-in to Wattpad or is it 2 different things?

  10. Russell

    Kickstarter videos don’t run on my PC at work. I get an error message in the console: “Uncaught SecurityError: Failed to read the ‘localStorage’ property from ‘Window’: Access is denied for this document.”

  11. Asiedu

    This is an awesome project. Thanks for writing about this today. I am product of Reading Rainbow (one of the first tv shows I ever watched). I wish this same level of support could be created in developing countries.

  12. Drew Meyers

    wow…this is a blast from the past. I watched the original show all the time..

  13. Emily Merkle

    An extremely worthy cause i applaud Mr. Burton for championing on Reading Rainbow’s behalf. However, the financial scaling as presented in the video does not add up, nor do the testimonials. I don’t feel this promotional video does the effort due justice.

  14. Llort Nilbog

    This episode is brought to you in part by Family Guy.

  15. Mike Geer (MG)

    Grabbed a calendar. Thanks for the heads up, Fred!

  16. Alex Wolf

    Literacy is a big deal.So sad the US once taught Latin in schools and is now own to this level of basic reading.

    1. LE

      You’re saying you think that they should still teach Latin in schools? I’d rather have them use that time to teach about human nature and relationships. (To me, more important than band practice and school plays.) If anything school curriculum probably has to be reevaluated a to z to bring it up to date.

      1. sigmaalgebra

        > teach about human nature and relationships.Sure, in part the goal of my imagined ‘Girls 101 for Dummies — Boys’, but super tough to teach, especially in a public school where everything has to be politically correct and even Darwin is not welcome. Mostly such is part of ‘psychological or social capital’ learned, like a lot of other important lessons, mostly at home or not at all at least for a long time.Remember: Already in the crib, the girls are paying attention to people and boys, to things. So, the girls were smiling, making eye contact, paying attention to tones of voice, etc. and I was trying to hack the latch on the crib and get to the firetruck on the floor. On your subject, boys start out way behind, usually concentrate on things that do not help them catch up, and, really, have much less natural sensitivity and, thus, talent.For now, try ‘Psychology Today’, which has a lot of chaff with its wheat, or my favorite, E. Fromm, ‘The Art of Loving’. Can also make progress with D. Tannen, ‘You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation’. But neither are currently politically correct since both emphasize that human males and females are not 100%, totally, exactly the same in every respect — astounding, obviously a subversive, seditious concept! :-)!Can see also Erving Goffman, ‘The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life’. To me, it was tough reading, dense, challenging, too tough. My wife found it simple, obvious, and easy reading. But then she read H. James, ‘The Golden Bowl’ for something easy and relaxing for fun. She was genuinely brilliant. My brother remarked that Henry James wrote novels like psychology, and his brother William wrote psychology like novels. Maybe try both and see which you like.Tannen liked Goffman. Get a copy of Goffman and see if you can get something from it.Apparently Tannen dug into Goffman, etc. after her first marriage failed and she wanted to know why. So, she made finding out why a research project and much of her career as a prof, at least long, at Georgetown. So, even Tannen at first was a bit short on understanding. Maybe someone gave her a toy firetruck and otherwise didn’t pay attention to her!For more, try to dig into the literature from clinical psychology. In an important sense, Fromm is an example.Shortest lesson: Try to detect, often even from seemingly subtle clues, and then track and figure out what the heck the other person is thinking and feeling and why and then make what you say and do appropriate responses. So, this way you have to watch both sides of the conversation, not just your own, and the mental effort can become severe.Since a lot of thoughts and feelings are fairly standard, not every instance need start with just a blank slate; often can make a decent maximum likelihood guess from a list of more common possibilities; and years of practice can ease the effort.Some girls in middle school are already pretty good at it — no doubt it helps that the girls get a lot of practice from their propensity to gossip. My wife and her mother were brilliant at it, but that brilliance did my wife no good, and the mother was basically so nasty only luck ever saved her.There were times in my life, K-12, college, and for some years afterward, that this little piece of advice would have done me a LOT of good.Don’t miss the T. Brazelton remark in ‘What Every Baby Knows’: When a child is rejected by its peers, the reason is always that the child has some anxieties and these show and make the peers feel uncomfortable. Not just children!But for such things, human males and females are farther apart in talent, interest, ability, etc. than Mars and Venus.Sorry, Donna, right, I’m being “sexist” again. :-)!

  17. Ivan Kovac

    Hmm, something is suspicious here.. How come they are 300K short if they asked 1M and got 4.7M.. Am I missing something here? 2 +2 = 4 or not?

    1. fredwilson

      they have a new goal

  18. Ben Kinnard

    Fred what % of AVC readers are from the US vs international? Just asking because I’ve never heard of Reading Rainbow, and wondering how many others are the same?

    1. fredwilson

      US is 63% of the readership

  19. Michelle Tandler

    Thank you for posting about this! What a flash from the past!